Brittney Grainer fears facing inhumane treatment in Russian penal colonies, where abuse, disease and forced labor are rife.

Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner is escorted from the court room after her Russia trial.Evgenia Novozhinina/Pool/Reuters

Brittney Griner is one of the most accomplished basketball players on the planet.

Brittney Griner.

Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The 6-foot-9 of the Phoenix Mercury, Grenier is an eight-time WNBA All-Star, two-time scoring champion, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and WNBA Champion.

Brittney Griner.

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

She also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner.AP Photo/Eric Jay

When not competing in the WNBA or on Team USA, Griner takes her talents abroad to supplement her income.

Brittney Grenier and UMMC Ekaterinburg celebrate their victory in the Euroleague.

Photo: Murat Sezer – Reuters

How low WNBA salaries led to the arrest of an American basketball star in Russia

Every year since 2014—the second time she’s graduated from college—Greiner has been to Russia to compete for European powerhouse UMMC Yekaterinburg.

Griner (right) feuds with Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.

BSR Agency/Getty Images

Brittney Grenier’s Russian team – owned by an oligarch allied with Putin – is a hotspot for WNBA stars

The 2021-22 WNBA season was no exception; Greiner was on her way to Yekaterinburg, in the Urals region, in February when she was stopped at a Moscow airport.

Brittney Griner.

Photograph: Evgenia Novozhinina/Reuters

Russian customs officers found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in the WNBA star’s luggage and subsequently detained her.

Brittney Griner.

Dmitry Serebryakov / AP Photo

Nearly six months later, Grenier was found guilty of drug trafficking with “criminal intent” and sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia.

Brittney Griner

Greener.AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Brittney Greener was sentenced to 9 years in prison in Russia after being found guilty on drug charges

Her legal team later appealed the decision, but the move was never expected to result in her release or even a reduction in her sentence.

Brittney Griner.

Evgenia Novozhinina/Pool/Reuters

Brittney Griner has appealed her 9-year prison sentence in Russia, but the move is unlikely to free the WNBA star

In late October, her appeal was formally denied.

Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner.Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters

Brittney Griner lost her appeal and will now begin a 9-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies.

While hoping to be released via a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia, Grenier learns that she will be transferred to a Russian penal colony.

Brittney Griner.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters

Brittney Greiner’s freedom could hinge on an unorthodox prisoner exchange involving a former US Marine and a notorious Russian arms dealer.

Russian penal colonies are labor camps for prisoners and are basically remnants of the infamous Gulag system in the Soviet Union.

Russian penal colony.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

Greiner was officially sent to one of the 35 or so penal colonies out of all the women’s colonies in the country.

Brittney Griner

Greener.AP

source: People

Each facility’s reputation and treatment of guests varies based on its geographic location and leadership structure.

Russian women's prison.

AP Photo/Yuri Tutov

Some, like Prison Colony No. 14 in Mordovia, are notoriously brutal.

Russian penal colony in Moldova.

Maxime Marmur/AFP via Getty Images

Prisoners there are said to live among rats, lose fingers while working 17-hour days on sewing machines, and are forced to watch guards burn cats alive.

Russian prisoners working on sewing machines.

Reuters

source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Luckily for the basketball star and her supporters, Griner seems to have avoided the worst case scenario by putting her in a penal colony.

Brittney Griner.

Photo: Evgenia Novozhinina/Reuters

She is sent to Penal Colony No. 2—a lesser-known facility located less than five miles from the dreaded Institution No. 14 but an eight-hour drive outside Moscow.

Distance from Moscow to Javas.

Google Maps

source: Reuters

Located in a town called Jaffas, Penal Colony No. 2 holds 820 women and traces its roots back to the Gulag labor camp called Timlagh.

IK-2 Penal Colony Russia Brittney Griner

Satellite image of the IK-2 penal colony in Javas, Russia.Google Maps

And while the number 2 is not known to be quite as harsh as the number 14, there are several disturbing commonalities across the entire penalty system.

Russian penal colony.

Photograph: Tatyana Makeeva/Reuters

Dilapidated infrastructure is known to limit access to running water and heating, especially in remote locations.

Russian penal colony.

AP Photo/Laura Mills

source: Oriental Studies Center

Prisoners’ personal hygiene is often neglected as a result.

A Russian prisoner washes her hands with water from a bowl.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

The colonies are very overcrowded, with most of the prisoners living in close quarters with about 50 other people.

Barracks of the Russian penal colony.

AP Photo/Yuri Tutov

source: People

Russian law requires each guest to have 20 square feet of personal space, but this standard—which is lower than the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights—is often not met in Russian facilities.

Russian prison barracks.

LIFE.RU/Handout via REUTERS TV

source: Oriental Studies Center

Between the close proximity of prisoners to one another and the lack of basic hygiene, penal colonies in Russia are known as incubators of epidemics.

Russian penal colony.

AP Photo/Yuri Tutov

AIDS, tuberculosis, COVID-19 and other diseases are rampant.

An inmate is being evaluated at a Russian prison hospital.

Russian Federal Prison Service via AP

source: Oriental Studies CenterAnd the mystery

And women in the system are often denied medical care altogether – let alone proper medical care.

Patients in a Russian hospital.

AP Photo/Vitaly Timkiev

source: mystery

Despite criticism that the system is similar to Joseph Stalin’s Golgs, the Russian government reintroduced slave labor in 2016.

Forced labor in a Russian penal colony.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

source: VOA News

Most women cook, clean, or sew to fulfill this requirement.

The prison cook prepares food.

Vannessa Jimenez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former female prisoners in all of Russia’s penal colonies said that “voluntary” overtime is in fact compulsory, with guards threatening retaliation if they don’t sign off on overtime.

Forced labor in a Russian concentration camp.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

source: mystery

As a result, some women are forced to work 16 or 17 hours a day, with only four hours of sleep each night.

Russian prisoners engaged in the cultivation of cabbage.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

source: mystery

Torture is unheard of in these facilities.

Russian penal colony guard.

Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

source: Oriental Studies Center

And when it comes to abuse, “even official statistics indicate that it is widely practiced,” according to a commentary from the Center for Oriental Studies.

Russian penal colony.

Photo: Ilya Nemushin/Reuters

But Griner likely had a less horrific experience.

Brittney Griner.

Dmitry Serebryakov / AP Photo

Ivan Melnikov of the International Human Rights Commission told People that in the more lenient colonies, inmates typically had “half an hour to two hours a day” of free time when they could “chat with each other, read a book from the library, write letters home, exercise, and play sports.” Board games, connecting with friends and family.”

Britney (left) and Cheryl Griner.

Britney (left) and Cheryl Griner.Douglas B. DeVeles/Getty Images

source: People

But even given Graner’s chance at a relative normal life inside the penal colony, her experience there would no doubt be difficult.

Brittney Griner.

Photograph: Evgenia Novozhinina/Reuters

Jonathan Franks, a crisis management consultant familiar with the hostage negotiation effort, told Insider that “creature amenities like food, freezing cold all winter, and basic sanitation of facilities” are likely to be unpleasant.

Brittney Griner.

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Greener’s wife, Cheryl, publicly expressed concerns about his apparent declining mental health after they had a very “disturbing conversation” over the phone.

Cheryl Greener.

David Banks, USA Today Sports

source: CBS News

But unfortunately, all that Cheryl, the Griner family, and those who support the star can do now is hope that a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia will bear fruit.

Brittney Griner.

ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/Reuters

The Biden administration has reportedly offered a convicted arms smuggler in exchange for the release of Brittney Greener and another American held in Russia.

Read the original article at from the inside

Leave a Comment