The State of Wyoming Is Adding Insult to Women’s Injuries by Defending Male-Only Bootcamps

In 1987, the Wyoming Legislature created a program to help young criminal offenders quickly see the error of their ways and become productive citizens.

Under the state’s Youthful Offender program, a state sentencing judge diverts first-time offenders to enter a “boot camp” program administered by the Wyoming Department of Corrections for the first six months where they receive rehabilitative programming and instruction and vocational training. If they do well in the boot camp, the sentencing judge can then place them on supervised probation for the rest of their sentence, thus sparing them years behind bars.

The Youthful Offender program is good public policy that gives people a second chance and saves taxpayers money. Only there’s one problem. The WDOC implemented the program in a way that only benefited approximately one half of the state’s population.

Administrators immediately constructed a male-only facility, which naturally sent the strong message that only men could enter the program. They then issued a rule stating that only those prisoners recommended for boot camp by their sentencing judge would be admitted. For the past 30 years, administrators have watched as sentencing judges only recommended men and did nothing to encourage them to recommend women. Administrators never even posted a notice on the WDOC website that women were welcome.

As a result, hundreds of men have benefitted from the program — but not one woman. And so for three decades, WDOC administrators have turned a blind eye to the fact that scores of women who committed the same crimes as men have spent years longer in prison for no good reason.

Scores of women who committed the same crimes as men have spent years longer in prison for no good reason.

Two months ago, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court against WDOC administrators challenging this practice. No state is allowed to operate a program in such a way that it discriminates against citizens on the basis of gender. Yet, despite the obvious injustice of WDOC’s discriminatory program, administrators filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case. Among other things, they blame the women — and not themselves — for the male-only program, arguing that women should have done more to convince their sentencing judges to recommend them for admission into the program.

This argument completely ignores the fact that WDOC created a discriminatory program at the outset by constructing a male-only facility. Moreover, its actions — or lack thereof — speak volumes. If WDOC had any intention of running an equal program, it could have done several things to make it a reality. It could have made it explicit to judges, the state’s public defenders, and the public that it would accept boot camp recommendations for female offenders through direct communications and public hearings. And it could have demonstrated its good faith by constructing a female-only facility, too.

But none of this happened.

As the agency delegated by the legislature to operate the boot camp program, WDOC could have — and should have — ensured that it was operated in a nondiscriminatory manner. WDOC’s effort to shift the blame only adds insult to injury to women who deserve the same chance as a man to make amends without going to prison. But instead of rectifying three decades of discrimination, the state is digging in its heels in defense of a program that excludes women for no good reason.

And that cannot go unchallenged.

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Anonymous

Women need to be protected from themselves and other women who not knowingly put them in danger.
Women think they are proving a point or acting as an equal to a man when in fact they are not as strong or able to stomach the acts of war once there to late and to late for the poor bastard men beside them in a fire fight . All that just to try and prove a point . Isn't that just silly .

Mike

What an idiotic and asinine comment.

"Women"

Sit down and shut up

Really...

Anonymous they aren't going to war. Plus I have served with some amazing women who have accomplished things you couldn't even dream of. Get out of here with that sexist garbage. Equal facilities should be there for everyone.

Anonymous

Pevar - please spare us how women are being treated so unfairly by the justice system. When it comes to sentences, females are only imprisoned for a fraction of the time as men. Why aren't you taking up that fight. Probably because there's no money in it and its hard to sell. You'er a disappointment.

Sara Goodloe

It's easy to be a troll when anonymous. Dear Anonymous. You are an ass.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

They need to have a similar camp for women. Call it a slipper camp, a pump camp, or a stiletto camp.

Chris Barney

The unfortunate part of this is that women's equal rights in prison are ignored far more than just sentencing. Inside prisons, men are given vast more opportunities for learning trades to help them succeed once they are released. Men are also given more recreation options to "keep them from fighting as much". Even in prison, women are still treated as though their only goal in life should be to learn to stay home and raise a family, rather than improve themselves. It is sad that our society is still sexist. It's also sad that so many people are just thrown behind bars and it's called rehabilitation. I pray the ACLU will stick to the battle. Most times though these issues start out strong, then die off without another look at it. Time will tell. God bless ALL prisoners. Men and women alike.

jane

Thank you, ACLU. I'm truly aghast at the govt's position on this issue; certainly women ought to be afforded equal access to programs such as this.

Anonymous

Out of curiosity where do you stand on the argument that women shouldn't get any jail or get significantly less time because they are women

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