Skip to Content

The sad saga of Brittney Griner took another turn for the worse this week, as the WNBA star was transferred from the temporary jail that had served as her home for most of the past year to a Russian penal colony in an undisclosed locatuon.

While the difference between the two types of incarceration might sound negligible to Americans, those who have survived the Russian prison system say that Griner’s situation just became immeasurably worse.

There are 106 mixed-gender low-security colonies scattered throughout the country, but because the Russian government considers drug offenses to be worse than most other crimes, Griner has been sent to one of 35 maximum security facilities, where life is said to be especially difficult.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27, 2022. (Photo via Getty Images)

The 31-year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after customs officials discovered less than a gram of hash oil in her luggage.

In August, she was Griner was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.

There were hopes that the American and Russian governments would arrange a prisoner exchange, but talks seem to have stalled.

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on June 27, 2022. (Photo via Getty Images)

A

Lawyers for Griner say they have not been informed of their client’s whereabouts.

“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” said attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov.

“In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination,” the legal team added.

Brittney Griner played for the Phoenix Mercury during her time in the WNBA. (Photo via Getty Images)

“Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”

The Russian prison system is shrouded in secrecy, but those who have endured its miseries say it’s little better than the infamous gulags of Joseph Stalin’s regime.

“Of course it has a bit better conditions than [the] original gulag system from the 1950s,” says Maria Alyokhina who was imprisoned as a result of her involvement with the anti-Putin punk rock collective Pussy Riot.

Brittney Griner on the court during pregame warmups. (Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)

“But the sense is the same. It is a labor camp,” Alyokhina adds.

“This is a really terrible institution which we received from [the] Soviet Union and it’s totally inhuman. The cynical thing is, the work the state provides to the prisoners is sewing uniforms for Russian police and the Russian army,” the activist tells CNN.

“For 100 women, there are like three toilets and no hot water.”

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow ahead of her sentencing. (Photo via Getty Images)

Activists say the only silver lining in Griner’s case is that the oppressive Russian regime has created an environment in which prisoners rely on one another for support.

“We’re living in times when you get sent to a colony for the slightest possible reason, and so everyone feels that injustice keenly and unite together to support each other, whoever you are,” former prisoner Galina Yakovleva tells CNN.

Attorneys for Griner say that they hope to at least determine her whereabouts, but will need assistance from the Russian government in order to obtain that information.

The Hollywood Gossip Logo
Brittney Griner is currently residing in a Russian penal colony. (Photo via Getty)

Our thoughts go out to Griner and her loved ones during this enormously difficult time.

We’ll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.