November 13, 2015 at 11:07 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Chelsea Manning request to grow hair long challenged

Chelsea Manning, gay news, Washington Blade

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified documents and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. (Portrait by Alicia Neal)

The Justice Department on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss Chelsea Manning’s federal lawsuit against the government for not allowing her grow her hair longer than regulations allow for male servicemembers.

The brief notes that Manning is housed in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, a maximum security military prison for men at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

“Manning is confined at the USDB, a military prison for men that has a uniform rule of no hair longer than two inches,” reads the brief. “Making an exception to the USDB’s generally applicable hair restriction would pose a significant security risk, and would undermine the USDB’s important military mission.”

Manning in a statement the American Civil Liberties Union released on Thursday criticized the brief.

“I believe that defining ourselves in our own terms and in our own languages is one of the most powerful and important rights that we have as human beings,” she said. “Presenting myself in the gender that I am is about my right to exist. What the government is basically telling me is ‘you cannot exist,’ that ‘you are wrong,’ and that ‘you do not exist.’ What they are doing is taking away our right to exist. I think this is the kind of situation that justifies all kinds of terrible things like ignorance, maltreatment, torture, murder and genocide.”

Manning — an Army private — is serving a 35-year prison sentence after a military court convicted her of charges related to the leaking of classified documents and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.

A Kansas judge last year approved Manning’s request to legally change her name. Manning in February began receiving hormone therapy after her the ACLU reached an agreement with the Pentagon.

Manning in 2013 announced through her attorney that she is transgender.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • The person stole secrets from our government and threatened our national security which means we are all put at greater risk for safety. Why should he be accommodated for anything? Being in prison means paying a price not get rewards.

  • In her amended complaint, filed 5 Oct 2015, Manning argued that she “is similarly situated to other women incarcerated in military correctional facilities.” The Justice Department denies that she is similarly situated because “the female military inmates to which Manning compares herself … are confined in different facilities with different grooming standards, whereas Manning is confined at the USDB, a military prison for men that has a uniform rule of no hair longer than two inches.” The Justice Dept. also notes that Manning’s amended complaint does not challenge her housing placement at the USDB.

    Regardless of their branch of service, all female U.S. military prisoners are confined at NAVCONBRIG Miramar, which accommodates both pre-trial and post-trial inmates such as Manning, whose custody status is medium (MDI), as well as disciplinary and administrative segregation populations.

    Why has Manning not requested transfer from the all-male USDB to the corresponding facility for women? At Miramar, Manning would indisputably be “similarly situated” to other women prisoners and would be subject to female grooming standards including hair length.

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