Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony.
According to her lawyers, the WNBA star has been moved from a Moscow detention center to a prison complex in order to begin serving her nine-year sentence on drug smuggling charges after Russian authorities claimed to have discovered vape juice containing hash oil in February.
Griner's attorneys added that while they have no knowledge of her "exact current location or her final destination," they are expecting Russian officials to relay this information once she arrives, per "standard Russian procedure."
As NBC News reports, advocates and former prisoners consider this a dire turn of events given that these institutions operate on a brutal system of "isolation, grueling labor and psychological torment," with many calling them the "successor to the infamous Russian gulag" or hard labor camps.
“Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life threatening. Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages, and inadequate sanitation were common in prisons, penal colonies, and other detention facilities," the State Department wrote in a 2021 report about Russian human rights abuses. They also stated "physical and sexual abuse by prison guards was systemic" and that there are little to no discriminatory protections in place, which is concerning as Griner is a gay Black American woman.
In response, the White House issued a statement condemning the move, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying that, “Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long."
“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,” the statement said, before mentioning that the same is being done for another US detainee, Paul Whelan.
Jean-Pierre added, "The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia."
Photo via Getty / Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP
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