Chelsea Manning

The Military Seems Intent on Making Chelsea Manning's Life Even More Miserable

Suicide attempt in July may lead to more punishment, solitary confinement.


Cheslea Manning
Chelsea Manning

It's difficult to fathom that even those who feel that Chelsea Manning's leaks of classified documents to WikiLeaks were a very serious crime could possibly support what's happening to her right now in military prison. And whether people believe her status as transgender is legitimate, it certainly doesn't justify what appears to be some very rough treatment.

As previously noted, Manning attempted suicide in her prison cell at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas in early July. She is serving a 35-year sentence in the all-male prison for espionage for leaking huge numbers of classified military documents while serving in Iraq.

The response by the military has been troubling. Originally, her defense attorneys had difficulties even finding out what had happened to her other than her hospitalization. Eventually they confirmed that she had attempted suicide and survived.

Over the weekend, they received some additional troubling news. The military has responded to her suicide attempt by piling on some more charges. These administrative charges are specifically connected to the suicide attempt, so the Army is actually attempting to punish her further on the basis of her attempting to hurt herself and end her own life. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that the charges were "resisting the force cell move team," having "prohibited property," and "conduct which threatens."

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow spoke with those in contact with Manning to get a better explanation of what these charges meant and came away fairly unimpressed, to say the least. For the first charge, according to the prison rules, simply requiring the "move team" to be called at all to get her out of the cell is a violation of the rule. That apparently would include having her unconscious body removed from her prison cell. The second violation of having "prohibited property" includes altering property and using it in an unauthorized form to—for example—attempt suicide. And the final charge is essentially that her suicide attempt interfered with the "orderly running" of the prison.

Doctorow also notes that even though Manning is on mental health observation, she's struggling to actually meet with her psychologist:

On the morning of Saturday, July 23, Chelsea called a Support Network volunteer. She was not doing well. It turns out, Chelsea had not been able to see her psychologist for over a week. With no treatment for an entire week, her condition had worsened.

Apparently, when her regular psychologist is not available, there is effectively no other properly trained alternative. On weekends, her facility doesn't even have psychologists on-site. This is significant because it was during a weekend, with no psychologist on-site, when Chelsea became depressed and attempted suicide.

Although she received counseling daily for two weeks after her suicide attempt, her psychologist then disappeared for an entire week and has maintained irregular, unpredictable hours since.

If Manning is convicted of these new administrative charges, she could face indefinite solitary confinement, transfer to a maximum security prison, and an additional nine years in her sentence, the ACLU notes. It could also eliminate any possibility of her ever getting parole. (Correction: She does not face nine additional years in her sentence. Rather, she could have nine years of her existing sentence upgraded to being served in medium custody rather than laxer custody.)