Manning’s Prison Treatment in Limbo After Transgender Declaration

The facility where the convicted Wikileaker will serve a 35-year sentence says it won't provide hormone therapy, but the legal precedent for transgender inmates is complicated

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Patrick Semansky / AP

Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., on July 30, 2013.

Bradley Manning’s revelation that she is transgender and wants to live as a woman known as Chelsea was met with an immediate roadblock from the military prison where she is set to serve 35 years for revealing government secrets. Fort Leavenworth Army Prison “does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder,” a spokeswoman said Thursday. But the law may see things differently.

Appearing on the Today show, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs said his client wants hormone therapy while in prison and he is prepared to “do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to… do the right thing.”  Manning has not said whether she would pursue sex-reassignment surgery. Gender dysphoria, according to the American Psychiatric Association, applies to individuals “whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with.” It is diagnosed by medical doctors and standard treatment often includes hormone therapy, which can reduce the risk of depression or even suicide.

(MORE: Manning Biographer: Media Should Respect The Trans Experience)

While the military appears unwilling to accommodate Manning’s wish, correctional facilities at the local state and federal level have developed a range of approaches for dealing with transgender inmates. Some municipalities, including Cook County in Illinois, Cumberland County in Maine, Washington, DC and Denver, Colorado, have specific policies tailored to the needs of transgender inmates that may include providing hormone therapy and specialized incarceration plans meant to protect transgender inmates, who face a greater risk of sexual assault behind bars.

In the courts, transgender inmates have won multiple legal challenges that have forced jails and prisons to provide hormone therapy. An inmate in a Massachusetts prison recently won a court decision requiring that the state pay for sex-reassignment surgery, although the state is appealing.

On the federal level, a Bureau of Prisons policy—issued in 2011 in response to a lawsuit—states that “current, accepted standards of care will be used as a reference” for developing medical treatment plans for inmates with gender identity disorder. And the Veterans Administration, which has a policy against providing sex-reassignment surgery, nonetheless provides hormone therapy for veterans diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Military prisons, however, are a different matter. The 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act led to Department of Justice regulations issued in 2012 requiring that non-military correctional facilities individually assess the needs of transgender prisoners, train personnel to respect gender identities and restrict the use of solitary confinement as a means of ensuring transgender prisoners are housed safely. Chris Daley, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, which works to stop sexual abuse of inmates, says a 2012 memorandum issued by President Obama means military prisons must develop similar policies.

(MOREViewpoint: Overzealous Prosecution of Bradley Manning Backfired)

Daley is hopeful the military will take Manning’s gender identity into account when deciding how to house and treat him at Leavenworth. “The Army has been more proactive about reaching out to advocates and experts on this issue,” he says. “We don’t see any reason they wouldn’t adopt similar regulations for their facilities.”

Jennifer Levi, director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders Transgender Rights Project, says the Constitution’s 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment applies to Manning regardless of whether he is in a military prison. “Ultimately, what controls the degree of medical care someone gets in a military prison is the Constitution,” she says.

Not providing hormone therapy to Manning could put him at risk for suicide, severe depression and self-mutilation, according to Randi Ettner, a clinical and forensic psychologist and chairwoman of a committee on incarcerated persons for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. “Medically, it’s a very dangerous situation,” says Etttner, who helped Cook County Jail develop its transgender inmate policy cited by advocates as one of the best in the country.

Cook County’s policy includes asking transgender inmates where they would prefer to be housed, with male or female prisoners. (It’s unclear whether Leavenworth would consider grouping Manning with female prisons.) “Depending on where they are in their transition, people will make a decision that’s in alignment with where they are and would feel safest,” says Ettner.

Kevin Joyce, sheriff of Cumerland County, Me., which adopted rules for handling transgender inmates in 2009 that takes inmate preferences into account, says such policies are vital. “We need to be able to answer how we’re going to deal with transgender inmates in a respectable and responsible manner,” says Joyce.

Some jails and prisons place transgender inmates in isolation either out of bias of because they believe it is the safest place, says Ettner. While not uncommon, this can puts transgender inmates at further risk of developing mental health problems.

For now, Manning’s future treatment for his gender dysphoria remains in limbo. “The statement from Leavenworth is not the final word on this issue,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Hormone therapy “is legitimate medical care for a serious underlying medical condition. Trans-related health care isn’t anything but health care.”

MORE: Leaker Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years

91 comments
maillotboutique2013
maillotboutique2013

The media are all referring to Manning as "she."  It's not wonder this guy lacks a solid foundation.  In this culture anything it supposed to be tolerated.Casquette Unkut

LeonardodelaPaor
LeonardodelaPaor

MANNING HAD MORE BALLS THAN ALL THE SO-CALLED " HE MEN" IN THE AMERICAN FORCES!

LeonardodelaPaor
LeonardodelaPaor

Manning should ask to be transferred to IRAN, where transgender operations are done all the time.


What does that say about the United States of Cuckoo-land?

HeatherOMalley
HeatherOMalley

Manning is scum. Let 'it' rot in prison the way it was born.

jdtweet_
jdtweet_

@TIME yes,this is now going to be the topic in regards. a shift,if you will. therefore,a different kind of riot.

cebsilver
cebsilver

@GeekyJules wait, the comments are disgusting? On an internet article? Say it ain't so!

Vapok
Vapok

@GeekyJules It should be modus operandus to ignore comments during coverage of sensational news stories, unless you enjoy flame bait.

cosmicblush
cosmicblush

@TIME he is in jail. Since he thinks he is woman make him live like a man.

4lexus3
4lexus3

@TIME better put him in pc. The male population will have a good time and nobody would tell.

RayCarioscia
RayCarioscia

I am a gay male and not supportive of this traitor to his country getting free surgery to make him a female.  I ll be damned if i have to pay to make Brad into Chelsea.  

seeseebutler
seeseebutler

"her"? yeah, right. Anyway, once he goes to prison he will get the chance to experience womanhood in ways he may not like.

zaglossus
zaglossus

He will find the female inmates will beat the stuffing out of him too.

zaglossus
zaglossus

Why does Time magazine use the feminine pronoun when Manning is still biologically a guy? Being politically correct?

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

I just wanna PUKE! 

How in the hell did a guy like this get in a position of responsibility for so much of our national secrets?  How could a guy who really wants to be a woman pass the psych test?

NOW we hear how he wants to be a woman.  *gag*

oldskool
oldskool

Obama give the NBA basketball player a congratulatory phone call for going public with his homosexuality (who knows why)

So will Obama give the same congratulations to Manning?

What a mixed up President 

pendragon05
pendragon05

Manning needs a shrink, not hormone therapy.

ScottStewart
ScottStewart

Why is Time referring to him as "her".  Yes, yes.  I know about the politically correct convention of doing so. Nevertheless, why?

mooseknkle
mooseknkle

@TIME how clever...He gets to spend his sentence in Special pop instead of taking his punishment like a "man"...

saramh1234
saramh1234

@TIME Is he alleging mental illness ? Declaring homosexuality prior to get on a prison plenty of men? Odd...

maetin
maetin

@TIME Man or woman, he's still going to be someones girlfriend in prison.

GeekyJules
GeekyJules

@cebsilver You know... if these comments weren't also said IRL, it wouldn't bother me as much.

GeekyJules
GeekyJules

@Vapok I know. Sometimes, I just can't help it. Especially when the topic is something that directly affects me

maxh
maxh

@RayCarioscia Damn that pesky Constitution and its Eighth Amendment obligation for prisons to provide the medical needs of inmates!

samguttsy
samguttsy

@RayCarioscia i dont understand why you being a gay male has anything to do with a transgender woman. clearly you dont understand anything about transpeople, especially how cheap and necessary hormone therapy is.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@oldskool The nba guy was black Obamas favorite color manning is white is least favorite color.

reallife
reallife

@oldskool if obama had a transgender child it would look like manning

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@ScottStewart Absolutely!  The media are all referring to Manning as "she."  It's not wonder this guy lacks a solid foundation.  In this culture anything it supposed to be tolerated.

Can you spell e-n-a-b-e-l-e-r?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@ScottStewart 

don't know, especially since "she" is still a he. he may identify as a woman, but, as of now, he's still biologically a man and should be referred to as such

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@saramh1234 @TIME 

so you're saying homosexuality is a mental illness?

Vapok
Vapok

@GeekyJules It's unfortunate, the older the internet gets, the younger the maturity level becomes. Soon it will be just nonsensical whining.

redtlr
redtlr

Apparently you cannot.  It is spelled enabler...duh

Kutadgubilig
Kutadgubilig

@TIME Enemies of Islam massacred children in Syria and Egypt. UN and fake humanist organisations support the military forces

GeekyJules
GeekyJules

@Vapok Holy crap! I've never thought about it in those terms, but that's spot on!

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