Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning was sentences to 35 years in prison.* She seems to be okay with this. I am okay with this.

I am using the term okay loosely. Am I actually okay with -anyone- going to jail for 35 years? Not really. However, it is the best I could have hoped for for Chelsea under the current government. She is not going to jail for the rest of her life.

Chelsea is about six months younger than me. When she leaves prison she’ll be 61 years old. Sixty-one seems impossibly far off when I think about it. I cannot even conceive of where I will be in my life the day she leaves prison. However, I will only be sixty-one. At sixty-three my mother runs a business with my father. She goes for walks every day with her dog. She goes hiking and kayaking. Camping. She has friends and works on neat craft projects. She gardens, and is looking into getting chickens.

Chelsea will miss a lot of the experiences I hope to have. I don’t know where she’ll be, what she wants, and what opportunities will be in front of her when she’s released. What I do know is that isolation is hard, being held captive is hard, and waiting is hard.

What we–people, people who care about people–need to do is not just think of her now, as she is being sentenced and in the news, but to think of her in five years, ten years, fifteen years. We need to think about the woman who will emerge in 35 years and ask ourselves what she will need to be strong and powerful, full of agency and potential.

I don’t really know what I can do. I am going to start with sending her mail. She says she’s gotten a lot of it, and doesn’t respond to all of them, so I won’t be disheartened if I don’t hear back. I hope I will keep sending her mail. I hope I will do this for as long as she is in prison, because she isn’t just going to need support now; she’s going to need it every day for the rest of her life.

Bradley E. Manning
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304

*This link is not used for the general article content, but for the confirmation of time and name.

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