Reality Winner, a former intelligence contractor jailed for leaking classified information, has been released from prison to serve her remaining sentence in a halfway house program. Winner’s attorney Alison Grinter tweeted the news this morning, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ website lists Winner in custody of San Antonio’s Residential Reentry Management field office, which oversees community-based programs for incarcerated people.
“I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison. She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful,” Grinter tweeted in a statement. “Reality and her family have asked for privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost. Her release is not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”
Grinter said Winner is still barred from public statements or appearances, and the BOP’s website still lists her release date as November 23rd, 2021.
In an email to The Verge, Grinter wrote that Winner would continue to seek a pardon. “The Residential Reentry center is in charge right now and will manage her transition, but we are definitely still seeking commutation and pardon,” she said. “The fight continues and I’ll still be taking meetings in Washington to press forward the case for commutation and pardon, but the family will be stepping back to concentrate on Reality and her health and healing. She became an aunt while she was behind bars, and she is going to spend as much time as she can bonding and tickling little feet as she adjusts to life in the world.”
Winner pleaded guilty to espionage in 2018, one year after being arrested for leaking a National Security Agency report on US election security. The report detailed Russian attempts to hack US voting systems before the 2016 election, an issue then-President Donald Trump had downplayed in the following months. (It did not indicate whether the cyberattack had any concrete effect on the election.)
Federal law enforcement determined that Winner had printed the report and mailed it to The Intercept, and her plea deal included a five-year prison sentence under the Espionage Act — a law that’s difficult to mount a defense against, since defendants effectively can’t argue that they disclosed information in the public interest. Both the Trump and Obama administrations have leveraged the Espionage Act against whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison before having her sentence commuted in 2017.
Winner unsuccessfully sought a release from prison during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, and she tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020. A documentary about her case, United States vs. Reality Winner, premiered at the SXSW film festival this spring.