Prison

A cell block sits ready for inmates at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington before the facility’s opening in early 2010. A woman who sued the state over its men-only boot camp program will attend boot camp in Florida.

File, Star-Tribune

A Wyoming woman sent to a Florida boot camp rather than prison is still being discriminated against on the basis of her gender, her attorneys argue.

Taylor Blanchard was placed in a boot camp in Ocala, Florida, after suing the state this summer alleging her civil rights were violated because Wyoming’s program is only open to men. Blanchard is the first woman to have been recommended to a boot camp program.

Blanchard will only spend four months in the Florida program, rather than the six to nine months men spend in Wyoming’s program, according to documents filed Tuesday by her attorneys in federal court. Her lawyers argue the shorter stint limits her chances at rehabilitation and constitute irreparable harm.

In Wyoming, offenders under the age of 25 can attend a boot camp program for rehabilitation if a judge recommends it. The inmates spend much of their 17-hour days in Newcastle focused on work and physical activity.

Inmates who successfully complete the program can then ask a judge to reduce their remaining prison sentence.

A judge had recommended Taylor Blanchard attend a boot camp program when sentencing her for a probation violation after she failed a required in-patient substance abuse program. Because Wyoming does not offer a women’s boot camp, she faced spending six to 10 years in prison instead. Blanchard sued the Wyoming Department of Corrections director and the Women’s Center warden in July, saying they violated her civil rights on the basis of her gender.

Blanchard filed a a class-action suit on behalf of any women who might be recommended for the program in the future and those that would have been eligible for the program if not for their gender.

As the suit was getting underway, the Wyoming Department of Corrections was looking for a similar program she could attend outside of Wyoming, according to court documents. The Department of Corrections found three programs willing to take her, eventually sending her to Florida.

Blanchard’s attorneys also argue that the Wyoming Department of Corrections should have created created a boot camp program or informed the courts that it would accept women into boot camps, and by not doing so, the DOC is responsible for discrimination that has resulted in women being sentenced to prison rather than placed in boot camps.

Blanchard’s attorneys have asked for expedited discovery in the case, a pre-trial stage of court proceedings in which the plaintiffs can request evidence.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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