Chelsea Manning, the trans activist and former intelligence analyst who was sentenced to 35 years in prison after leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks, had her sentence commuted by President Obama this week after enduring seven years of imprisonment by U.S. military. Manning, who served the longest prison sentence of any person ever convicted for leaking secret U.S. government documents, had attempted to end her life on at least two occasions during the past six months. She is now scheduled to be released on May 17, and in a post on Twitter thanked Obama for “giving me a chance.” According to human rights researcher Adam Frankel writing in a column for The Hill, the commutation was a “momentous occasion” for the rights of transgender people.
In a letter to Obama petitioning for her sentence be commuted, Manning alleged mistreatment at the hands of prison authorities. “These experiences have broken me and made me feel less than human,” wrote Manning.
Frankel points out that the U.N.’s independent expert on torture has said that extended use of solitary confinement constitutes torture – including when prison officials subject trans individuals to the practice “for their own protection.” Manning was held in solitary confinement for 11 months of pretrial detention before being transferred to an all-men’s facility on a military base in Kansas, according to Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union. Military prison authorities have ignored the recommendations of independent psychological experts who assessed Manning. After a failed suicide attempt while in prison, Manning was again punished with isolation.
According to Human Rights Watch, dozens of transgender women are locked up in jails or immigration detention centers across the United States where they face sexual assault, ill-treatment, and indefinite solitary confinement. “Trans women — and particularly those who are poor, from communities of color or undocumented — have suffered a great deal during Obama’s time in office,” Frankel writes.
Read the full story at The Hill.