Brittney Griner WILL serve 9 years in Russian Penal Colony: Here's what she can expect
MOSCOW, RUSSIA: WNBA star Brittany Griner is most likely to serve a nine-year prison sentence in Russia after her plea was rejected by a Moscow court unless there’s a prison swap. The basketball legend who has an eight-time All-Star and two-time Olympic Gold under her belt was convicted on August 4 after customs officers found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
In this hearing, Griner "wasn’t expecting a miracle" at her appeal, but was hoping her sentence might be reduced. However, the court held her sentence that she will have to serve nine years in a Russian penal colony. On this latest development, Joe Biden’s office has said that Griner is "wrongfully detained" and must be released immediately, reports Daily Mail.
Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, Griner's attorneys, were frustrated and disappointed with Tuesday's, October 25, court ruling, “The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts the existing court practice.” Blagovolina continued by saying about Griner, “[She] the one who is the most disappointed today. She had some hopes and this hope has vanished today,” reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Brittney Griner is presently in Moscow prison, but will soon be moved to a Russian penal colony, which is also referred to as a Russian "concentration camp" infamous for abuses. The sentence of nine years is already tough on the basketball legend, but it is made more difficult by making her serve in prison which many may compare with American prisons in the Western Hemisphere.
To understand what a penal colony is like in Russia, there are in total 650 traditional penal institutions in the country, where there is a barrack and dorm-style detention complexes for inhabitants to carry out hard labor. Usually, people convicted of drug charges have to serve in one of these penal colonies. In the US Department of State’s 100-page human rights report on these penal colonies, it was found to be overcrowded, poor sanitation and heating, and food shortages among other problems. Another challenge Griner may face is the abuse against people who are anything other than heterosexual.
“There were a lot of attempts in the 1990s to introduce Russian lawyers, criminal justice system workers, and police to Western legal concepts and traditions. But as the nongovernmental organizations report[ed] later, most of the reforms actually failed and didn't make a significant change,” said Russian prison sociologist Olga Zeveleva to VICE news.
She stressed, “There are other identities that I expect to be more acutely perceived in Russian prisons than her racial identity. First and foremost, she will be perceived as an American. Second, she'll be perceived as a high-profile prisoner.”
Currently, negotiations are on between the US and Russia on swapping Griner and ex-US Marine veteran Paul Whelan for Russian in US custody. Viktor Bout, the leading candidate is a Russian arms trader who is presently serving a 25-year sentence for conspiring to provide weapons to those who intended to kill Americans.