Chelsea Manning: Punishment unfitting of crime


On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Manning is a transgender woman currently serving time in an all-male army prison.

In 2010 Manning was convicted of stealing and giving 750,000 documents and videos to WikiLeaks. I find it odd that President Obama commuted her sentence days before he is out of office. There is obvious backlash because he will not pardon Edward Snowden, who committed similar crimes.

The key difference, in my opinion, is that Manning was a member of the armed forces and was supposed to uphold this country. Instead, she exposed her own country. She confessed to her crimes and accepted her punishment, which Snowden did not do. Snowden fled the country to avoid prosecution.

In the military there is a chain of command. If there were issues, Manning should have taken them to her superiors, not the internet. While I do not believe that she should have been housed in a male prison, I also do not think that she should have been sent to a civilian prison. I feel that it is discrimination to house a woman in a male prison. It is a cruel and unusual punishment.

Most people convicted of leaking documents or other classified materials have received sentences of between one and three years, according to The New York Times. The Obama administration has prosecuted more people for leaking government secrets than were charged under all previous presidencies, according to The New York Times.

A 35-year sentence is much longer than one to three-year sentence. If the length of the sentence is the issue, President Obama could have commuted her sentence at any point in the past seven years. I do not see why she was sentenced that much longer than others who have committed similar crimes, but I feel like a sentence is supposed to be carried out. When a civilian breaks the law, is convicted and goes to prison, they must go before a parole board to be released early. There is also a set length of their sentence that they must serve before being released. I cannot see why the President would intervene four to five years after what is a normal sentence for that crime.

I am torn on the decision. What I cannot agree with is the Trump supporters who are adamantly against this when their presidential candidate supported WikiLeaks. I am personally against exposing government secrets the same reason people are against murder and theft. It is illegal. In some situations, like the video of the helicopter shooting innocent civilians, I can see why someone would want to make that known. I cannot see why a military personnel would break their chain of command and turn their back on their country.

My point is that Manning knew there would be repercussions for her actions and she accepted those. The sentence did not fit the crime and that is the reason for the commuted sentence now. There are several different ways to look at it. One would be that a sentence should be carried out the same for military personnel as it is for civilians. Another would be that she should have been sentenced fairly to begin with. That is my opinion on the situation.

Regardless of which stance you take, Manning is set to be released on May 17 this year.