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“The force of days”: Manning’s 35 very long years

Thirty five years is not 90 years. Nor is it 60, nor 136. So, indeed, for anyone looking flatly at numbers, it could have been so much worse for Pfc. Manning.

But sheer numerical comparison doesn't pass muster when addressing Manning's sentence. In actuality, these numbers carry in them the weight of years -- homogenous dark years, locked in a cell. For Manning, the matter now is time, presented and handed down to him within two minutes: the cold, hard but ineffable fact of over three decades in prison.

While some commentators were swift to note that government prosecutors did not win their desired (and despicable) request that Manning become an octogenarian before seeing freedom again, the whistle-blower is likely to spend at least a decade in prison. With his nearly three-year pretrial detention taken into account, Manning must still wait almost nine years before he can seek parole.

In eight years' time, Manning will be just 33. Were he to serve his full 35-year sentence he will leave prison nearly a 60-year-old. His prison sentence is ten years longer than the number of years he has even yet spent on this earth. The point to make here is that prison time is long, homogenous and often dehumanizing. Eight years should not be made light of, let alone 35.

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