MSNBC Guest: We Shouldn't “Coddle” Chelsea Manning With Hormone Therapy

While appearing on MSNBC, Jeffrey Addicott - director of the Center for Terrorism Law - warned against “coddl[ing]” Chelsea Manning in prison by providing her with hormone therapy, suggesting that Manning was faking being transgender in order to get special treatment from the government.

During the August 25 edition of MSNBC's Weekends with Alex Witt, guest host Mara Shiavocampo invited Addicott to discuss the possibility of providing Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - with hormone therapy and other accommodations typically provided to transgender inmates while she serves her sentence in a military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Addicott called the suggestion “outrageous,” arguing that the Obama administration had turned the military into a “social engineering product”:

ADDICOTT: I don't coddle criminals. I don't think we need to coddle criminals. Whatever you want to call yourself, that's fine. Here's your suit, here's your jail cell, have a nice day. That should be the approach of most Americans. This is outrageous, that we should coddle this individual. That we should make the military a social engineering product like this administration has tried to do and other administrations in the past. The job of the military is not to engage in this type of supercilious activity. Let's just move on, lock him up, and hopefully that will be deterrents to other people that think that they might want to do the same thing that this individual did.

When Shiavocampo asked if the government had a responsibility to protect prisoners from “imminent harm,” Addicott suggested that Manning may be lying about being transgender in order to avoid serving in an all-male prison facility:

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Do you think that the government, though, has any responsibility to protect his security in being in an all-male facility if he now - or she rather now identifies as a woman? That there could be questions about her safety and that there is an obligation to protect your prisoners form any imminent harm because that's not part of the sentence?

ADDICOTT: No. I mean, I'm not going to coddle this person. He's still a male. He has the male genitalia. He's going in to serve with males. I mean, what a great idea. If I'm convicted, I can say “I'm now a female, throw me in with the female prisons.” I mean, we can't bring ourselves down to the level of these type of criminal - he's a criminal, he's a convicted criminal. He doesn't have these rights. His right is to go to jail and serve your time. We'll protect you as we protect any other prisoner. Have a nice day.

As the American Civil Liberties Union has stated, denying Manning necessary hormone therapy raises "serious constitutional concerns." Transgender inmates who are barred from receiving hormone therapy are at risk for a number of mental health problems and might make potentially lethal attempts at autocastration. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently found that refusing hormone therapy to transgender inmates “serves no valid penological purpose and amounts to torture."  

Addicott's suggestion that Manning may have invented her gender dysphoria in response to being convicted is also baseless. Manning's struggles with gender identity were publicized well before she was put on trial for leaking government documents to WikiLeaks. As National Journal reported on August 22, Manning revealed persistent gender identity struggles in online chats in 2009, and Wired published the transcripts of the chats in July 2011. 

Contrary to Addicott's statements, providing transgender inmates with appropriate medical care isn't a form of coddling - it's a basic responsibility of the state.