Chelsea Manning was found guilty today on four charges of breaking prison rules and will receive 21 days of restrictions on recreation as punishment, but she has been spared the harshest penalty: indefinte isolation.
She is serving a 35-year sentence in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for providing government documents to WikiLeaks, and was brought before a review board.
She tweeted the result this afternoon:
Manning was accused of brushing food onto the floor during meal time, disrespect of an officer, "medicine misuse" for possessing a tube of expired toothpaste, and possessing prohibited reading material, including the Vanity Fair issue featuring Caitlyn Jenner and copies of TheAdvocate and Out magazines. The maximum sentence on the charges was indefinite solitary confinement.
Supporters of Manning had gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition opposing solitary confinement; the groups Fight for the Future, RootsAction.org, Demand Progress, and Code Pink delivered them Tuesday. That undoubtedly helped spare her the maximum penalty, and she was thankful to all who signed, said Chase Strangio, her attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. However, the punishment she has received is no small matter, he said in a press release.
"The fact that Chelsea had to face today's four-hour Disciplinary Board without counsel, and will now be punished for daring to share her voice, sets a concerning precedent for the remaining decades of her incarceration," he said. "Not only does this punishment mean the immediate loss of library and recreation for Chelsea, but she also will carry these infractions through her parole and clemency process and will be held longer in the more restrictive custody where she is now incarcerated. No one should have to face the lingering threat of solitary confinement for reading and writing about the conditions we encounter in the world. Chelsea's voice is critical to our public discourse about government accountability and trans justice, and we can only preserve it if we stay vigilant in our advocacy on her behalf."
Added Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, a digital rights group: "People around the world are outraged that a courageous whistleblower like Chelsea Manning is imprisoned in the first place, so it's no surprise that people spoke out in droves when the U.S. government threatened her. More than 100,000 supporters signed a petition demanding no solitary confinement for Chelsea, and the pressure worked. It's absurd that Chelsea was found guilty, and that she has to endure any additional punishment beyond being wrongly imprisoned, but now the U.S. government knows that the world is watching their treatment of Chelsea closely. If they continue this unwarranted harassment of Chelsea, they risk losing all legitimacy in the eyes of millions."