chelsea manning

Please, 2017, Give Us This: Chelsea Manning Could Be Freed In The Next Eight Days

Trans activist, author, and civil liberties advocate Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving a thirty-five year prison sentence for disclosing classified documents to Wikileaks, may finally be granted reprieve.According to NBC News, President Obama has put Chelsea on his short list for possible commutation, and she may see a decision about her future as early as next Wednesday. Chelsea submitted a request to Obama last month asking that her sentence be reduced to the time she has already served, emphasizing the torturous conditions she has faced over the past six years as a trans woman subjected to an all-male prison. The request was accompanied by a petition on the White House website which gathered over a 100,000 signatures, obligating the White House to respond.

International human rights groups have spoken out overwhelmingly in her support, describing Chelsea as “oversentenced” and her prosecution as “aggressive” and “harsh.” The ACLU has fought hard for her cause. Chelsea’s petition was also accompanied by well known advocates, who have made clear that Chelsea was acting in order to inform the world of serious human rights abuses perpetrated by the United States.

The harshness of Chelsea’s sentence is well documented. A former State Department spokesperson alled her prosecution “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Unnamed Army intelligence officers have confessed to NBC news that her sentence was excessive. Not only is Chelsea’s sentence unconstitutionally, unfairly, and unacceptably disproportionate to the crimes that she committed, but Chelsea has been tormented in prison, where she has been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement. Moreover, Chelsea faces another set of unique problems as a trans woman in an all-male prison at Fort Leavenworth. Chelsea has twice attempted to commit suicide in the six years she has spent there, after struggling tooth and nail for basic lifesaving medical care.

Chelsea’s imprisonment is a blemish on the record of a country that claims to stand for freedom of speech, democracy, and progressive values. Obama must use the last of his tenure to commute her sentence, especially since Chelsea may not survive the next four years of a fascist, authoritarian, right-wing Trump administration. As Chelsea’s attorney Chase Strangio has pointed out, doing so could strengthen Obama’s legacy of  “standing up for trans people’s rights,” and be a step towards correcting his administration’s failure in systemically mistreating her.

The world deserves a freed Chelsea Manning, with the force of all of her positivity, activism, and kindness, in times of fear, cruelty, and hatred. Chelsea, more than anything, deserves to finally have her “first chance to live my life outside the [United States Disciplinary Barracks] as the person I was born to be.” Chelsea’s aunt, Deborah Manning, has highlighted this opportunity as “the last hope” Chelsea could have for a while. It would be a fitting time now for a President who ran his campaign on the promise of hope, to deliver on that as one of his final acts in the Oval Office.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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