After being transported to a Russian penal colony last week, WNBA star Brittney Griner is reportedly facing harsh conditions under her imprisonment.
Griner was arrested in February in Russia and charged with smuggling drugs into the country, CNN reported.
In August, she was convicted and then lost the appeal in October.
CNN then reported on Nov. 9 that Griner was being transported to a penal colony somewhere in Russia, but her location was not clear.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Now that Griner is allegedly imprisoned in a Russian penal colony, media outlets have been looking into the conditions of these institutions.
The New York Post spoke with relatives of Trevor Rowdy Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was detained in Russia for about 1,000 days and then freed in April through a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia.
According to descriptions from family members of Reed, the penal colonies in Russia are horrid.
“You gotta understand, the labor camps in Mordovia, these are pre-Stalin-era prisons, these were literally referred to as gulags. And even though there’s a federal authority for prisons, each warden has wide leeway to do whatever they want until it makes someone angry or leads to bad press,” Joey Reed, the marine’s father, told the Post.
Reed’s father said that his son spoke of how the food was barely nourishment, the buildings they were kept in were rudimentary, and the climate cold.
“To a certain extent, you’re starved just by the food that they give you. We didn’t show any public photos of my son for about a month and a half because he looked like a concentration camp victim,” Reed’s father added, according to the Post.
This description of the dire circumstance of the Russian penal institutions also lines up with the State Department’s 2021 report on human rights conditions in Russia.
“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 report outlined.
The department’s report also noted that physical and sexual abuse from guards was rampant and violence between inmates was a serious danger as well.
“There were reports prison authorities recruited inmates to abuse other inmates,” the State Department added.
“Overcrowding, ventilation, heating, sanitation, and nutritional standards varied among facilities but generally were poor,” the report also stated.
There were also claims of torture, the State Department noted.
“Within Europe, the Russian prison system has been subjected to the highest number of complaints to human rights monitors. It really stands apart among cruel, inhumane and degrading practices,” Daniel Balson, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, told the Post.
It is not clear what kind of conditions Griner is particularly facing now in her imprisonment.
But the Biden administration has noted that it is making efforts to free Griner, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Nov. 9.
“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 read.
Meanwhile, there have also been reports that CIA director Bill Burns meet with Russian intelligence in Turkey on Monday, the Associated Press reported. (the link is to an AP syndication b/c AP’s site was down)
The meeting was reportedly meant to focus on nuclear issues and the war in Ukraine, but the AP added that it was likely that Burns addressed the Griner situation.
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