Leavenworth Military Prison Policies: Will Chelsea Manning’s Decision Affect Her Incarceration?

on August 22 2013 4:12 PM
Chelsea Manning
Will Chelsea Manning's decision affect her incarceration at Leavenworth? WikiLeaks Court Papers

Bradley Manning was convicted for his role in leaking documents to Wikileaks and sentenced to 35 years in jail. Manning was going to serve his sentence at Leavenworth, officially known as the United States Disciplinary Barracks, but will Manning’s decision to become Chelsea Manning affect her incarceration?

On Thursday, Manning announced her decision to live life as a female. Per her official statement, she said, “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.” Traditionally, Leavenworth holds male prisoners, usually military personnel convicted at court martial. But following gender reassignment surgery, Manning may be transferred to the facility that holds female military prisoners, at the Naval Consolidated Brig (NAVCONBRIG) in San Diego, Calif.

Fort Leavenworth is made up of two different facilities on 51 acres of land and includes an open air recreation yard. One facility houses the inmates' general population, and it's separated into three housing units. The housing units are pod-shaped, two-tiered domiciles with an open-air center area with pay phones, TVs and chairs, with each unit holding up to 142 inmates and in possession of its own command center. The second facility houses the treatment programs, vocational training, health clinics and administrative offices.

At Leavenworth, Manning would be able to enroll in treatment programs, and the facility provides counseling services. According to the Leavenworth website, “The staff balances their critical duty to incarcerate, ensure good order and discipline, and to maintain a safe environment, with providing an opportunity for rehabilitation, hope and a new start.” Leavenworth also provides vocational training and education programs. Inmates can be certified, via the vocational program, in barbering, carpentry, embroidery, engraving, graphic arts, laundry/dry cleaning, printing, sheet metal and welding.

There are no policies in place that cover all of the issues that stem from Manning’s decision, but the U.S. Army did say it would not provide funding for gender reassignment surgery. The Army states that it does not provide sex-reassignment surgery, or Manning’s preferred hormone therapy, for individuals with gender identity disorder.

The American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns about the Army’s statement. According to the ACLU, “Public statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns.” The organization says gender dysphoria can lead to serious mental health consequences, including distress, anxiety and suicide.

Most important, the federal government should provide approved treatment for gender identity disorder, or GID, which is a serious medical condition, according to the ACLU. “The official policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state agencies is to provide medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and courts have consistently found that denying such care to prisoners based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.”

Manning’s hormone therapy, and decision to become a woman, could result in a transfer to a different facility. In the United States, only a handful of states will not change the sex on a birth certificate. Manning was born in Oklahoma, which allows for the amendment of a birth certificate upon sex reassignment surgery

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