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January 17, 2017

President Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning

President Obama today shaved 28 years off the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Below are items by Lawfare Blog and Jacobin Magazine supporting this decision. My comments follow.

Until the past week I had opposed freeing Manning due to the seriousness of her crime, though I defended her right to appropriate healthcare and criticized the apparent denial of care as a form of punishment. I was persuaded by the Lawfare piece, which makes a good point about the difference between pardon and commutation, and about mitigating circumstances. I agree with the distinction between Manning and Edward Snowden. That Manning's jailers have been at best indifferent to her health, and appear to have gone to considerable lengths to harm her health as an extra-judicial punishment, was perhaps the best argument for clemency.

Further, the disgraceful handling of her incarceration makes a strong case for demanding better training and health-related protocols moving forward. It is no more acceptable to treat trans prisoners this way than to condone prison rape. If the latter is truly what we want, then we should advertise our barbarity by explicitly including it in formal sentencing. Otherwise we should damn well stop it.

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