Why could Chelsea Manning be facing solitary?

Chelsea Manning's attorney says her client could be placed in solitary confinement for or violating prison rules.

US Army/AP/File
Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick, in this undated file photo provided by the US Army. Ms. Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence for espionage and other offenses, will be subject to three weeks of recreational restrictions for violating prison rules.

Chelsea Manning, the US Army soldier sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, could be placed in solitary confinement indefinitely for violating prison rules.

Ms. Manning’s attorney Nancy Hollander told the Associated Press that one of the charges is possession of prohibited property including a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and a novel about transgender issues.

According to Ms. Hollander, an Aug. 18 hearing is set at the Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas. Manning has asked for a public hearing but the session before a three-person panel will be closed.

The maximum penalty Manning could face is indefinite solitary confinement.

The former intelligence analyst, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 of espionage and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010.

Hollander says Manning is also charged with medicine misuse relating to expired toothpaste; disorderly conduct for sweeping food onto the floor; and disrespect.

"It is not uncommon in prisons to have charges that to the rest of us seem to be absurd," Hollander said. "Prisons are very controlled environments and they try to keep them very controlled and sometimes in that control they really go too far and I think that this is going too far."

Christopher Epps, the former Mississippi prison chief told The New York Times in 2012 that while prison wardens start out isolating prisoners who scare them, they eventually start using it for inmates they’re “mad at.”

The Christian Science Monitor’s Patrik Jonsson wrote last June:

Solitary confinement began in the 1800s as an opportunity for biblical self-reflection, but it has become – especially since the murder of two Marion, Ill., prison guards in 1983 – a go-to punishment for problem inmates, who may end up spending years alone, talking to the walls.

According to estimates, between 25,000 and 80,000 US inmates are in solitary at any one point. Overuse of solitary, while in many ways understandable, is problematic because recidivism rates – and suicide rates – are higher for solitary inmates.

“Solitary confinement is something that ought to be used as a last resort, because I don’t think it promotes mental health, so you’re not creating better citizens [upon release],” Paul Robinson, an expert on criminal sentencing at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia told Mr. Jonsson. But at the same time, he says, “sometimes there are very good reasons [for using solitary] because for some people, solitary confinement is the only responsible way to incarcerate them.”

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