Chelsea Manning Cruelly Sentenced to 14 Days of Solitary Confinement for Suicide Attempt in June
Chelsea Manning has been sentenced to serve 14 days in solitary confinement. The charges that led up to this sentencing have to do with her suicide attempt back in June. According to a statement sent by Manning to Fight for the Future, the digital rights group advocating on her behalf, the sentencing was swift in that it took all of about 30 minutes for the board to decide on the punishment. Of the charges, Manning writes:
I was acquitted of the “Resisting The Force Cell Move Team” charge.
I was found guilty of the “Conduct Which Threatens” charge. This charge was for the suicide attempt.
I was found guilty of the “Prohibited Property” charge, which was for an unmarked copy of “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy,” by Gabriella Coleman.
Manning also clarifies that seven of her 14 days are “suspended,” meaning that she does not have to serve them, but should she get into trouble again within the next six months, they’ll come back.
Over the past couple of months, Manning has had to endure cruel treatment at the hands of those who have imprisoned her. The cruelty of treatment stems not from direct violence or action against her, but rather from their refusal to offer proper care and treatment with regards to her trans status. As a trans woman, she is forced to adhere to male inmate grooming procedures and behavior regulations, among other such dehumanizing treatments.
According to her ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio, she also “is not receiving adequate psychological counseling, as her course of treatment is constantly irregular and therefore less effective.” Combine all of that with the fact that she is a woman housed in an all male maximum security prison, and you have what amounts to an incredibly emotionally (and likely physically) exhausting situation, one that would drive anybody to the edge.
Because of all of this, she attempted to take her own life. Her attempt was prevented by prison guards, and for her troubles, she didn’t receive treatment for her issues, she received trumped-up, ridiculous charges.
The suggested disciplinary action, solitary confinement, is considered by international law to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Many U.S.-based advocacy groups have moved to have the punishment considered as such here within America, but opposition to that has been quite stiff. In short, it has to do with how the prison system views the punishment. To them, it is an important and vital method of separating especially dangerous prisoners from the general population. It, in some small way, protects them and preserves their safety.
As well, it’s increasingly difficult to prove the mental and emotional damage inflicted upon solitary inmates. The systems currently in place do well to punish those in charge for inflicting physical harm upon inmates, but when it comes to the “unseen” effects of psychological and emotional harm, the system falls incredibly short.
Punishing Manning for her suicide attempt by further isolating her from other people threatens to exacerbate an already incredibly tragic situation. It’s clear that what Manning needs is treatment and someone to talk to regarding her issues. The last thing she needs is to be taken away from the few things keeping her alive. Put simply, this is making an already bad situation even worse.
Regardless of what you might feel about the actions that landed her in prison, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Manning really does not deserve the cruelty that has come to define her experience in prison. Yes, she is a prisoner, but she is also a human being, and as such, she is someone who deserves fair and equal treatment.
Along those lines, it should be noted that the U.S. Army has agreed to recommend Manning for gender-confirming surgery, something that she had repeatedly requested for, but was only given after she underwent a hunger strike.
With each ordeal Manning has to face, more and more gaping holes in the Department of Justice’s treatment of inmates are made visible. The fight for Chelsea Manning and human rights in general continues, and one hopes that Manning does not suffer in vain.
(via BuzzFeed, image via torbakhopper/Flickr)
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