CASPER, Wyo. — Some Wyoming lawmakers are split over the need for a state-run women’s boot camp as a lawsuit challenging the state’s men-only program plays out.
Paying for a women’s facility appears to be one sticking point.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported Saturday that a Wyoming American Civil Liberties Union report recommends creating a women’s camp as a way to alleviate Wyoming’s high prison incarceration rate. Boot camp allows first offenders under 25 to work to avoid long-term imprisonment.
Taylor Blanchard, 23, has sued the Department of Corrections. She claims the department violated her constitutional rights by sending her to prison to serve a six-to-10-year sentence instead of a boot camp where she could seek to reduce her time behind bars.
Blanchard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance — methamphetamine — in 2016 and was given probation on a six-to-10-year sentence. She was kicked out of a rehabilitation program after attempting to contact people she was banned from contacting. At a May hearing, a judge said wanted to recommend boot camp for Blanchard; instead, she was sent to the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk.
She was later transferred to boot camp in Florida.
Casper Republican Rep. Tom Walters told the Star-Tribune he would like to eliminate the boot camp program if a court orders changes that treat men and women equally. He says the camps are underutilized, are a drain on Wyoming’s finances, and that for now qualifying women should be sent out of state.
Fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Bovee said she supports creating a women’s camp. Up-front costs of creating one would be offset by lower recidivism rates and easing the prison population, she said.
“I think it would save us money in the long run,” Bovee said. But she added: “Where we’re going to get that money, I’m not sure.”
Linda Burt, a former ACLU lobbyist and a 2016 Democratic state legislature candidate, said many prison inmates can’t access substance abuse treatment programs due to funding cuts — a situation that can be addressed in boot camps.
The ACLU report, issued Nov. 20, says one in 130 Wyoming residents are incarcerated. It says new crime categories created in recent years have increased the numbers of those sent to prison. One recommendation is to create a women’s category for boot camps.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com