Following her Thursday conviction on drug charges in Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner will not be getting special treatment in a fancy jail. Instead, she is being sent straight to a Russian penal colony.
According to The New York Times, a Russian judge convicted Griner on charges of attempting to smuggle illegal narcotics into the country.
She received a nine-year sentence, and unlike in the United States, Griner will not be guaranteed safety from cruel punishment.
“Corrective labor colonies” are the most common type of prison in Russia, Unherd reported. But that does not mean they are a walk in the park.
In fact, the outlet described these penal colonies as “a place where the authorities can act with impunity, free to torture prisoners in the hope of extracting a false confession.”
In these colonies, prisoners are assigned to “work brigades” and given daily tasks to complete, Unherd reported. Even if they complete the tasks, the system is designed to punish them further.
“In many ways, even more cruel was the Catch-22 built into [the] forced labour: Fill your work quotas and the quotas themselves will be increased; yet fail to meet them and you’ll be punished.”
The outlet detailed the story of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a Russian woman who was sentenced to two years in a penal colony in the Russian republic of Mordovia after staging an illegal performance in a cathedral with her activist group.
Tolokonnikova was reportedly forced to work 17 hours a day and fed rotten potatoes while doing it. She also had her “privileges” taken away, meaning she was not allowed to use a toilet.
Will the Biden administration be able to get Griner home?
While it is unclear exactly which penal colony Griner will be sent to, it seems likely she will face horrible conditions similar to the ones Tolokonnikova endured.
No person should be subject to such horrible treatment, but it is the reality in Russia. It should certainly put things into perspective for leftists in America who argue our current prison system is too cruel.
While getting Griner back to America seems like an honorable goal, there are certainly questions about what concessions the Biden administration should make in order to achieve that goal.
On July 28, CNN reported the Biden admin had offerred convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russia in exchange for Griner and another American named Paul Whelan. As of Griner’s sentencing on Thursday, Russia had not agreed to the deal.
“Britney Griner’s conviction and nine-year sentence leaves Biden officials in a difficult position,” the Times reported.
“They can hope that Moscow will change its position and accept a U.S. proposal to free Ms. Griner by trading her and another American prisoner for a Russian arms dealer jailed in the United States, a prospect that is uncertain. Or they can offer to pay an even greater price for the basketball star’s release.”
Giving up a dangerous convicted criminal in order to get Griner back to America already seemed like a risky endeavor. In addition to giving Bout his freedom, the U.S. would be signaling to Russia that it is willing to make major concession in future negotiations.
By that same token, offering an even sweeter deal to Russia would be unacceptable. Wanting to bring Griner back is one thing, but handing over both prisoners and negotiating power to Russia is another.
In any case, Griner nor anyone else should be subjected to the type of torture reportedly present in Russian penal colonies. With that said, the Biden administration has its work cut out for it if it wants to save Griner from this fate.
Submit a Correction →
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.