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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.

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.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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Holly the delivery nurse.

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