From playing basketball to yoga, an inside look at what awaits Brittney Griner in Russian penal colony
RYAZAN, RUSSIA: WNBA star Brittney Griner has been awarded nine years of jail time after less than a gram of hash oil was found in her possession at a Russian airport in February. Though the 31-year-old’s legal team had urged for less time behind bars since the apparent drug amount was not huge, a Russian court gave almost a decade on Thursday, August 4.
After the verdict, it has been said that Griner will be put in a Russian penal colony while the US administration works on “a potential prisoner exchange to bring her home,” PEOPLE reported. Earlier, after she was sentenced, President Joe Biden slammed the verdict by saying, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
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He had remarked: “It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Besides, a US official had stated, “We remain very interested in making a swap and are continuing to press the Russians aggressively to accept it or move forward with negotiations, but the ball is in Russia's court as we are still waiting on them to respond.”
Now, Ivan Melnikov, the vice president of the Russian Department of the International Human Rights Defense Committee, and Yekaterina Kalugina, a Russian human rights activist, have described what life in a penal colony looks like. According to them, Russia has 35 women's penal colonies of nearly 60,000 prisoners. The cells of these colonies are reportedly congested, and between 40 to 60 women are housed together in a single one.
Melnikov told PEOPLE: “Brittney is being held in a detention cell within a penal colony. She is likely to stay there for the time of her appeal, which might be up to three months if she isn't pardoned and exchanged before then, but if her appeal fails, she might be sent on to another colony.”
The Russian politician went on to say, “I hope that she will be sent to a colony with a lenient governor who allows her to coach basketball in the daytime rather than being a seamstress. Prisoners are encouraged to play sports or do yoga and so on, and basketball is popular. I think that would be the best thing for her,” before explaining that the inmates "are woken at 6 a.m., they wash, dress, make their beds, stand to attention for the register, go to breakfast and then start an eight-hour working day, usually as a seamstresses. But we are trying to encourage governors to use the talents of the inmates. For example, working with art."
Melnikov also stated that the residents inside the penal colony get some leisure too. He claimed, “Their free time is set by the governor, from half an hour to two hours a day and during that time they can just chat with each other, read a book from the library, write letters home, play sports, play board games and call friends and family.”
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Besides, inmates receive a base monthly wage of $180, which they are free to spend on sanitary products, fruit and vegetables, and the internet, Melnikov noted. However, it has been said that the medical condition is not good in these colonies and prisoners are quite prone to get tuberculosis.