The tragic saga of Brittany Griner took another turn for the worse this week, as the WNBA star was transferred from a temporary prison, having spent the past year working as her home in a Russian penal colony in an undisclosed location. did.
While the difference between the two types of imprisonment may seem negligible to Americans who have escaped the Russian prison system, Griner says the situation just got worse.
There are 106 mixed-gender low-security colonies spread across the country, but since the Russian government considers drug crimes to be worse than other crimes, Griner is sent to one of 35 maximum security facilities, where life specifically called hard.
The 31-year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after customs officials found less than a gram of hash oil in his luggage.
In August, she was Griner was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison,
It was expected that the US and Russian governments would arrange a prisoner exchange, but talks seem to have stalled.
Griner’s lawyers say they have not been informed of their client’s whereabouts.
“We have no information about his exact current location or his final destination,” said lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov.
“As per standard Russian procedure, attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, must be notified upon arrival at their destination,” the legal team said.
“Notification is delivered through official mail and generally takes up to two weeks to be received.”
The Russian prison system is shrouded in secrecy, but those who have endured its suffering say it is little better than the infamous gulags of Joseph Stalin’s regime.
“Of course it’s a slightly better situation than [the] The original Gulag system from the 1950s,” says Maria Alokhina, who was imprisoned as a result of her involvement with the anti-Putin punk rock collective Pussy Riot.
“But the sentiment is the same. This is a labor camp,” says Alokhina.
“It’s a really awesome institution we’ve got [the] Soviet Union and it is completely inhuman. The cynical thing is that the job the state provides to prisoners is to sew uniforms for the Russian police and the Russian army, ”the activist tells CNN.
“For 100 women, like there are three toilets and no hot water.”
Activists say the only hope in Griner’s case is that the repressive Russian regime has created an environment in which prisoners depend on each other for support.
Galina Yakovleva, a former prisoner, told CNN: “We’re living in a time when you’re sent to a colony for the smallest possible reason, and so everyone feels that injustice, eager to support each other.” Together and unitedly supports each other.”
Griner’s lawyers say they hope to at least determine his whereabouts, but that obtaining that information will require assistance from the Russian government.
Our thoughts are with Griner and his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.
We’ll have more updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.