Now that Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony after being convicted of smuggling hashish oil into the Eastern European nation, some fear the WNBA star will face deplorable conditions, including homophobia, racism and 16-hour work days.
Journalist Dave Zirin at The Nation said that prisoners at Mordovia, where Griner is currently serving a nine-year sentence are very rarely treated like humans.
“Bigotry is commonplace, medical care is nearly nonexistent … and inmates are expected to sew the uniforms for police and guards,” Zirin said in a TMZ report.
A member of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist protest group known for its provocative punk rock music, said that the prison where Griner is being held is like “hell” where “beatings and torture” are commonplace. The group’s co-founder, Nadya Tolokonnikova, spent two years in a Russian penal colony following a 2012 arrest.
Griner was transferred to the penal colony after losing an appeal to be released and sent back to the United States, her attorneys announced earlier this month.
She was transferred to the maximum-security prison one day after American diplomats visited her. Neither U.S. officials nor her lawyers were aware of her transfer until earlier this year. Officials further indicate that her family may not know where exactly she will be held for at least two weeks.
“Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received,” her lawyers said.
“As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as is their obligation,” Blinken said. “Ensuring the health and welfare of U.S. citizen detainees in Russia is a priority, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for them all.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed Blinken’s sentiments, stating that the Administration is working tirelessly to bring Griner back home.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony.”