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Appeals Court dismisses suit by female inmates in ND

The 8th U.S.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a class action lawsuit Thursday that had been filed in 2003 against North Dakota by female inmates alleging discriminatory conditions in programs and facilities in the state's correctional institutions.

The court found there was no evidence to suggest that any differences in programs or facilities for male and female inmates was caused by gender discrimination.

The court concluded that any differences were based on the smaller female prison population, the need for female inmates to have a separate prison facility and the greater number of female inmates in a minimum custody classification, according to a news release issued by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

The female inmates had also claimed a gender-based inequality in the prison industries and vocational programs provided by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in violation of Title IX. That claim also was dismissed by the court, which concluded the differences were based on location, not gender, according to Stenehjem's release.

Stenehjem stated that the court agreed with the state's argument that problems of prison administration and reform are for the executive and legislative branches of government to deal with, not for the courts.


"The 8th Circuit has affirmed that the DOCR's decisions regarding housing and programming for female inmates are based on sound correctional policies for a growing female inmate population," Stenehjem said in the release. His office provides general counsel services to the DOCR.

North Dakota's Risk Management fund paid out almost $112,000 for attorney fees and $22,000 in expenses during the six-year legal dispute, the release said.

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