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Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her punishment's been much worse.

No matter your opinion on this Wikileaks source, it matters how she's treated.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her punishment's been much worse.

It's been more than three years since former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was convicted of leaking government documents.

In 2013, Manning was found guilty of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks. As a result of her crimes, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.


Depending on your point of view, Manning is either a hero or heretic. On one hand, she helped expose torture, abuse, and other abhorrent actions by the U.S. military; on the other, it's entirely possible that releasing classified documents to the public put American lives at risk. While few could argue her innocence — she pretty clearly broke the law — the moral judgment remained far more nebulous, not neatly fitting into boxes of "good" or "bad."

At the time of her conviction, 52% of Americans viewed Manning as a traitor.

Being transgender has complicated things for Manning.

Part of her struggle is directly related to the fact that she is a transgender woman; in prison, she has been forced to comply with male grooming standards regarding the length of her hair. Additionally, she's had to fight for access to medically necessary hormone replacement therapy treatment.

How Chelsea Manning sees herself. By Alicia Neal, in cooperation with Chelsea herself, commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support Network.

At every turn, it seems like Manning's jailers are looking for reasons to further punish her. In July, Manning attempted to kill herself by hanging in her cell. Later that month, Army officials announced that as a result of her suicide attempt, Manning would face additional charges that could result in indefinite solitary confinement and an additional nine years in prison without the chance of parole.

According to her attorney, Chase Strangio, Manning's living conditions constitute "cruel and unusual punishment."

"This is not about accommodations or 'special rights,' but about recognized legal standards for equal treatment and the provision of medically necessary care," Strangio wrote in an email. Courts have routinely recognized that medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria cannot be withheld solely because the treatment is stigmatized or less understood.

"When we incarcerate people against their will, we, as a society, have an obligation to see to it that their medical needs are met," Strangio explained.

Soldiers outside the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Manning is being held. Photo by the U.S. Army.

On August 9, Manning announced that she would be going on a hunger strike to protest her living conditions.

"Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison — or by anyone within the U.S. government," she wrote. "I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect — that I once actually believed would be provided for — afforded to any living human being."

"We must care for those whose freedom we restrict." — Chase Strangio

She pledged to refuse all food and drink with the exception of water and her currently prescribed medications until she is given "minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity." Adding that she has submitted a "do not resuscitate" letter, Manning acknowledged that her protest may very well lead to her death.

When asked what meeting Manning's demands of dignity and respect would look like, Strangio highlighted two key things that need to change about her treatment in prison.

First is the matter of receiving medically necessary care to treat her gender dysphoria, including permission for her to adhere to the hair length and grooming standards of female inmates.

The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by the U.S. Army.

Second is the matter of being allegedly held to different standards than other prisoners when it comes to punishment. Strangio listed a number of things, ranging from possession of expired toothpaste to improper labeling of reading materials to the aforementioned suicide attempt.

Manning wants a written confirmation from the military that they're able to meet these requests. On Sep. 13th, Manning ended her hunger strike after receiving assurance from the military that she will be given access to transition-related health care.

Manning's hunger strike is a bold move, and it's drawing attention not just to her plight, but to that of prisoners around the world.

Manning's hunger strike should matter to all of us who believe in a true system of justice. Arbitrarily withholding medical treatment from prisoners — whether stemming from misunderstanding or malice or "because that's just the way it is" — erodes the Constitutional protections we've developed as a society.

"Chelsea is in pain and she is under our care because we have decided as a society to detain her," Strangio adds. "We must care for those whose freedom we restrict."

Poor, and possibly unconstitutional, treatment of prisoners affects more than just those in military prisons like Manning.

Inmates in at least four states recently went on strike to protest what they say amounts to forced labor, making just cents an hour for their work behind bars.

Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images.

No matter how you feel about Manning's actions, there are good reasons to support her in this struggle.

It may be easy to brush off the needs of people who've been convicted of a crime. It may be easy to justify inhumane treatment with lines like, "If they didn't want to be treated like that, they shouldn't have committed a crime," but that's not who we are — or at least it's not who we aspire to be.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

When Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, she was sentenced to just that: 35 years in prison. She wasn't sentenced to 35 years in prison and denial of medically necessary health care. She wasn't sentenced to 35 years in prison and humiliation. She wasn't sentenced to 35 years in prison and the loss of her gender.

The same goes for prisoners around the country being subjected to substandard conditions. Our justice system, while imperfect, is meant to set the limits of punishment; it's unfair to arbitrarily add onto it. Doing so, justifying negative treatment, sets a very dangerous precedent that can undermine our very existence as a country and as a society.

It starts with caring. It starts with empathy. It starts with you.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.