Chelsea Manning, currently in the seventh year of a 35-year court-martial sentence, has already served longer in prison than any other whistleblower in the history of our country.
On Monday, more than a dozen LGBT organizations — led by the ACLU — sent a letter to President Obama urging him to commute Chelsea’s sentence to time served.
Since she was first taken into custody in 2010, Chelsea, a transgender woman who is being forced to serve out her sentence in an all-male prison, has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and denied necessary medical treatment related to her gender dysphoria. The Army even opposed her request to use her legal name and to be referred to by female pronouns. The U.S. government has vigorously and repeatedly opposed Chelsea’s efforts to be treated with basic dignity, and the ACLU is still fighting on Chelsea’s behalf in court so that she can follow the hair length and hair grooming standards that all other female military prisoners are subjected to.
The longer Chelsea goes without treatment that she needs while being deprived basic dignity, the harder it will be for her to survive.
It is imperative that she be freed.
To quote from Chelsea’s own words to President Obama:
The bottom-line is this: I need help and I am still not getting it. I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life. When the USDB [United States Disciplinary Barracks] placed me in solitary confinement as punishment for the attempted suicide, I tried it again because the feeling of hopelessness was so immense. This has served as a reminder to me that any lack of treatment can kill me, so I must keep fighting a battle that I wish every day would just end.
If President Obama grants her clemency petition, Chelsea will have a first chance to live a real, meaningful life as the person she was born to be. The only relief that she is seeking is to be released from military prison after serving more than six years of confinement.
We hope that President Obama will hear her plea and #FreeChelsea before he leaves office next month.