Chelsea Manning formally asks Obama to commute her sentence after second suicide attempt

I know we’ve all been preoccupied with figuring out what went wrong with the election and how this regime change will affect our communities (as we should be). But meanwhile, there are people already suffering and likely to suffer even more under a new administration who we can’t forget. Like Chelsea Manning, who asked Obama to commute her sentence after a second suicide attempt this October.

She attempted suicide this summer and was punished for it, in addition to going on a hunger strike because of how she was being treated in prison. Manning’s petition does not ask for a pardon, but for an early release. She was put in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth (a men’s prison) for having expired toothpaste and had to get a crazy expensive legal team to convince the government to get her hormone therapy and approval for her gender transition surgery.

That transition surgery was approved in September, but since then, things haven’t gotten any better for Manning. She reportedly attempted suicide on Oct.4 after being put in disciplinary solitary confinement, according to a statement she gave to her team of lawyers that then passed it along to The New York Times since Manning isn’t allowed to send or receive mail.

Chelsea Manning protestors US-GAY-PRIDE-PARADE-SAN FRANCISCO
CREDIT: Josh Edelson/Getty Images

But the statement sort of brushes over her suicide attempt and recounts a crazy night in suicide watch/solitary confinement. According to her statement, four people pretending to be guards tried to convince Manning to “escape.” But she knew they were fake “guards” trying to get her into more trouble, so instead she just sat in the corner of her cell all night long. She’s now in “medical observation,” a ward that has four single rooms and a common area. It’s no wonder Manning is reaching out for help.

In her most recent petition to Obama, Manning says:

“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public. I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong. The military judge sentenced me to thirty-five years confinement- far more than I could have ever imagined possible, as there was no historical precedent for such an extreme sentence under similar facts.”

She adds that she has already served six years of her sentence, and it has broken her completely. Manning writes:

“The Army kept me in solitary confinement for nearly a year before formal charges were brought against me. It was a humiliating and degrading experience — one that altered my mind, body and spirit. I have since been placed in solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for an attempted suicide despite a growing effort — led by the President of the United States — to stop the use of solitary confinement for any purpose. These experiences have broken me and made me feel less than human. I have been fighting for years to be treated respectfully and with dignity; a battle I fear is lost. I do not understand why.”

If Obama doesn’t heed her request before January, it might be Manning’s last chance for years.