Chelsea Manning Faces Solitary Confinement for Expired Toothpaste, Malala Memoir


Chelsea Manning, a transgender US army soldier currently serving a 35-year-sentence for sharing government secrets with WikiLeaks, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for several completely innocuous, scarily trumped-up “violations.”

According to The Guardian, for whom Manning writes a column from prison:

The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

Manning was allowed to have the toothpaste in her cell, but was penalized because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015.” The “prohibited property” includes a copy of Malala Yousafzai’s memoir, I Am Malala, a copy of Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair, an issue of Cosmopolitan featuring an interview with Manning, and a copy of the US Senate torture report.

The “attempted disrespect” charge, according to Reuters, came about after Manning requested a lawyer when a corrections officer accused her of “disorderly conduct,” i.e. sweeping food onto the floor.

Manning’s attorney, Nancy Hollander, told Reuters she believes this is “harassment,” adding: “It appears to be an attempt to silence her. Chelsea writes quite a bit. She is vocal. Certainly it’s not a national security issue.” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU handing Manning’s lawsuit against the US military, told The Guardian: “Chelsea has a growing voice in the public discussion and it would not surprise me were these charges connected to who she is.”

As Conor Friedersdorf points out over at The Atlantic, solitary confinement is “arguably torture,” a punishment that human rights organizations from the ACLU to the Human Rights Watch consider inhumane, counterproductive, and incredibly damaging. Massively overused in the U.S., it’s estimated that 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary on any given day.

The fact that long-term isolation might potentially be wielded as a tool to silence a completely nonviolent inmate whose real infraction appears to be the simple fact that she is transgender—well, that’s scary, and heartbreaking, and so, so angering.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Associated Press.

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