Hundreds of thousands of people purchased the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine featuring Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic champion turned transgender icon. But having that copy could land another transgender woman — convicted national security leaker Chelsea Manning — in indefinite solitary confinement.
Manning’s attorney said Wednesday that the former intelligence analyst, who is serving a 35-year sentence at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, has been accused of violating several prison rules, including medicine misuse and possession of books and magazines while under administrative segregation. Among the prohibited property under Manning’s possession — a copy of the Vanity Fair issue with Jenner on the cover. And the medicine misuse? An expired tube of toothpaste.
Nancy Hollander, who is representing Manning, said the transgender Army private would face a closed hearing before a three-person panel on August 18. Such disciplinary charges carry a maximum penalty of indefinite solitary confinement — treatment numerous human rights groups believe to be torture.
“It’s important that we highlight this story because it does demonstrate just how much we overuse solitary confinement in this country,” said Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, on msnbc’s "NewsNation" Thursday. “Generally, it shows that trans prisoners are particularly targeted for many different things. And it also just shows how minor, minor things, infractions are being used to really punish people so severely. And this is not something that’s unique to Chelsea, but it is something that she is experiencing in a particularly harsh way at this time.”
In a statement, Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian told msnbc that Manning's upcoming hearing was "a common practice" and that the Army remains "committed to a fair and equitable process."
"Inmate Manning received a disciplinary report for alleged rules violations," said Christian via email. "The case has been processed and is currently pending a Disciplinary and Adjustment Board. Upon its completion, Manning will be informed of the outcome. Discipline and adjustment boards are a common practice in correctional systems to hold prisoners accountable to facility rules and adjudicate alleged violations within an administrative process. The Army remains committed to a fair and equitable process in the adjudication of administrative matters for all of its Soldiers."
The 27-year-old, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 on espionage charges and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. In addition to possession of prohibited property in the form of books and magazines and medicine misuse, the prison charges against Manning include disorderly conduct for sweeping food onto the floor and being disrespectful to a correctional specialist. According to details of the charges, published by Boing Boing, Manning was uncooperative when a prison official pulled her aside for sweeping food off the table. The correctional specialist attempted to talk to Manning, the charges state, but Manning kept cutting the specialist off, saying “this interview is over” and “I want my lawyer.”
Hollander released a statement Thursday saying she was “concerned” that Manning was being unfairly harassed.
“I am concerned that the prison authorities are going to continue harassing Chelsea whenever she speaks out or demands her rights,” Hollander said. “Asking for a lawyer is not disrespect.”