Why Chelsea Manning's Punishment Is Barbaric In My Books
Chelsea Manning attempted suicide while in prison in early July, and luckily it was just that, an attempt but one that should have been taken seriously, and I feel like it wasn't. Chelsea Manning was sentenced in prison for 35 years for leaking military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks.
It gets a bit complicated as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to those 35 years in a male prison facility. Chelsea was born Bradley Manning, and came out publicly as a woman on August 22, 2013 after she was arrested on May 27, 2010. When she came out as a woman publicly, in my opinion she should have been moved to a women's prison facility. Yet she wasn't, and was forced to comply with male grooming standards.
This may be something that seems small to you if you like myself are cisgender, and even I do not fully understand it. Look at your gender right now, and how it matches your biological sex and lets say it didn't. If you feel like a girl on the inside lets imagine you were born in a biologically made male body and vice versa. I did that and I still cannot truly understand the pain that people around you, society, and even you put yourself through in that situation.
There is a side to this debate on what prison people who identify with the opposite gender of the body they were born in should be in, and while I say that they should be in the one that they identify with, there is a second question to be asked: what about gender-queer and gender-fluid humans who commit crimes? Should we have a separate prison system to accommodate them in an already too full prison society? If not, which prison system do we put them in? None of these questions have easy answers but its time to seriously think about them in the type of world we are living in today.
Back to the story at hand, Chelsea Manning is in a mens prison facility and attempted suicide by hanging herself in her cell. And instead of doing something about her mental health, or even possibly considering that this isn't the right prison system for her, they punished her. There was talk of an indefinite solitary confinement punishment for the rest of her sentence which is ludicrous.
For someone who's mental health had to have been in shambles when they attempted to end their life, the answer of what to do with that person is not put them in what people refer to as the hole where they have no human contact. Give them therapy, or even change their location from a prison to an institution where they can get the help they need and then go back to the rest of their sentence.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture has literally said that the U.S. must reform its use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is defined as the physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells 22-24 hours a day. Now I enjoy the odd day alone but to have it be forced on human beings for long periods of time, some of whom have mental health issues is torture, at least in my mind.
Now solitary confinement can have its uses, and I have had someone tell me a couple of those uses, and some relate to Ms. Manning. One that doesn't is when someone convicted of molestation is in prison. Even the worst of the worst such as serial killers will turn on a convicted pedophile and kill them, disgusted at their crime. So some of them end up in solitary confinement as protection, and the same argument was made for Chelsea Manning by someone I know. They stated that Chelsea Manning could benefit being in the hole because of the other inmates may harass her physically, verbally, and/or maybe sexually; to which my argument against that is maybe she should be in a different prison system entirely, a women's prison. They may not treat her any better, but at least she would feel like she is where she is supposed to be, possibly leading for her to at least treat herself better.
As someone who has been through mental health struggles I cannot imagine being isolated from any contact for most or the entirety of the day while struggling alone. Chelsea Manning did commit a crime, and even though I support that crime I understand that she does have to face the consequences of her actions. But to me that does not include a harsh punishment for a cry for help.
Chelsea Manning was sentenced Friday, September 23, 2016 to two weeks of solitary confinement, one week of which is suspended unless she behaves in an unsatisfactory manner. This means that at least she will be spending 154-168 hours alone, and at maximum 308-336 hours with no contact. Say what you want about Chelsea Manning, and her crimes, but forcing someone to be isolated after a suicide attempt is barbaric, and a form of torture in my books.