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Chelsea Manning Files to Have Her Prison Sentence Commuted, and She Deserves to Be Free

image via torbakhopper/Flickr

Chelsea Manning has officially petitioned the President, asking for her prison sentence to be commuted.

This petition comes not long after Manning attempted to take her own life a second time after being placed in solitary confinement, which she was serving as punishment for attempting to take her own life once before. The timing is appropriate as well, as President Obama is set to leave office soon before President-Elect Trump–which I can’t type without rolling my eyes–will be sworn into office. In essence, this is her best shot at getting a pardon or, short of that, a commutation on her prison sentence.

In her formal petition, she acknowledges what she’s done, and says she has accepted responsibility for her actions. As well, she wrote, “I am a far different person than I was in 2010. I am not Bradley Manning. I never really was. I am Chelsea Manning, a proud woman who is transgender and who through this application, is, respectfully requesting a a first chance at life. I wish I were strong and mature enough to realize this back then.”

Manning’s ordeal, which we’ve written about before, can be defined as nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. Originally, she was imprisoned for leaking sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks. She has been hailed as a whistleblower, having leaked the documents in order to call out the government and the military on its more questionable practices. Not long after leaking those documents, she was arrested and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Her time served has, thus far, been peppered by constant reports of mistreatment, which comes at the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice and the military. For example, her status as a trans woman should allow her to live her life as a woman, specifically with respect to adhering to grooming standards while in prison. Unfortunately, those in charge still expect her to adhere to male grooming standards, and she had been punished on multiple occasions for failing to abide by such a rule. To the Army’s credit, though, she was granted permission for her gender confirmation surgery back in September.

That being said, mistreatment like the above and the other multiple actions the government has taken to prevent her from living her life still fly in the face of relatively recent news that transgender Americans would be welcomed into the armed forces. When it comes to the government’s role in this, it’s a story of two faces, with a much more public-friendly-looking one hiding cruel mistreatment.

Given her status as a whistleblower and the fact that Edward Snowden has also asked for a pardon, it seems only right that she have her sentence commuted at the very least. If we are a country that is going to lean heavily on its whistleblowers in these trying times to come, then right here, right now, in the President’s lap, there is a chance to demonstrate just how seriously this current administration wants to take that idea.

But really, more than that, the experience and treatment Manning has been exposed to while in prison is nothing short of inhumane. It is cruel, it is unusual, and it goes against everything that the military ostensibly wants to be: open and accepting of those who want to serve, regardless of gender identity or sexuality.

All that being said, given the government’s previous stance on similar commutations–as Manning’s situation is unprecedented–her chances at actually receiving approval remain slim. But again, with an impending Trump administration, it’s probably the best shot she’s going to get for a while.

(via Death and Taxes, image via torbakhopper/Flickr)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.