Chelsea Manning: What Will Life Be Like After She’s Released from Prison?
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On May 17, Chelsea Manning — the army intelligence analyst convicted of violating the Espionage Act for leaking classified military documents and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks in 2013 — will be released from the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s remaining sentence before leaving office in January 2017. During her trial, Manning said that she had intended to help people by leaking the documents and did “not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.”
After her release, Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Johnson says that Manning will remain on unpaid active duty and “excess leave” and will report to an unknown military post while an appellate court reveals her court-martial conviction. In the meantime, Manning will be “eligible for direct care at medical treatment facilities, commissary privileges, morale welfare and recreation privileges, and exchange privileges.”
Manning’s mother Susan has said that her 29-year-old daughter will live with her Maryland. An ongoing crowdfunding campaign has raised $138,680 to help pay for Manning’s “logistical, emotional, and financial support to safely transition into the free world.”
In a statement released on May 9, 2017, Manning said:
“I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.”
Shortly after her sentencing, Manning came out as a transgender woman. The following year, she legally changed her name and one year later, the U.S. military began to refer to her by a female pronoun and began providing weekly psychotherapy for gender dysphoria, hormone therapy, female undergarments, daily access to some cosmetics and speech therapy. They also granted Manning’s request for gender affirmation surgery.
Nevertheless, the military refused to transfer Manning to a female inmate facility or let her grow out her hair in fear that other male inmates might try to rape her.
During her time in prison, Manning had all of her shower and outdoor time closely supervised and was once punished for owning expired toothpaste, gay magazines and the copy of Vanity Fair featuring Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. She twice attempted suicide and held a hunger strike during her incarceration in protest of her treatment.
While some of the information leaked by Manning revealed abuses like a 2007 video showing a U.S. air crew laughing while killing Iraqi civilians, a Defense Department review declared all the leaked information as “either dated … low-level opinions, or … already known.”