Brittney Griner Moved to the Harshest Type of Russian Penal Colony for Women


Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is getting sent to a general regime prison, one of the harshest types of Russian penal colonies for women.

Griner’s lawyer confirmed the transfer to People, explaining that Griner was moved into one of the 35 high-security correctional institutions for women; on Nov. 17, Reuters reported that Griner has been sent to Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, 300 miles southeast of Moscow. The U.S. State Department said they heard reports of Griner’s relocation but did not receive official word from Russian authorities.

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While many women in Russia are sent to low-security, mixed-gender settlement penal colonies, Griner’s drug conviction means she will serve out the remainder of her sentence at the general regime prison.

“It’s not an easy life in a settlement colony, but it’s a lot harsher in a general regime colony,” Natalia Filimonovna, from the NGO Russia Behind Bars, told People.

In a previous statement shared with Rolling Stone, Griner’s legal team said they were not initially told where Griner’s final destination would be. “We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” Griner’s lawyers said. “In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the U.S. Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination.”

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said, “Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being. As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her. Our team remains in close contact with the U.S. Government and Richardson Center, who are using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety, and bring her home. We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays.”

It appears Griner was moved from the Iksha detention center one day after members of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were allowed to visit her there (last Thursday, Nov. 3). Following the visit, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporter, “We are told she is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

At the end of October, a Russian judge upheld the nine-year prison sentence against Griner, who both pleaded to, and was found guilty of, smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil into Russia. Both rulings, though disheartening, were largely expected as the Russian legal system rarely acquits defendants or overturns verdicts. At the appeal hearing, the court did recalculate Griner’s sentence, bringing it down from nine years to about eight, after taking her pre-trial detention into account.

Griner’s case has played out during a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. U.S. officials have been trying to secure her release, discussing a possible prisoner exchange with Russia that would also include imprisoned Marine Corps veteran and former security executive Paul Whelan. The U.S. is reportedly willing to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the jailed Americans, but negotiations have stalled.

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