Brittney Griner Moved to Russian Penal Colony. What to Know

Brittney Griner is being transported to one among Russia’s infamous penal colonies, in line with an announcement made Wednesday by her attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov. The pair mentioned they do not know her actual whereabouts and they’re going to solely be notified, alongside the usEmbassy, as soon as she arrives. This course of may take as much as two weeks. For now, Griner is unreachable.

The 32-year-old U.S basketball titan and Olympic gold medalist was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony after she was arrested at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 for possession of two vape cartridges containing hashish oil. Griner pleaded responsible to what she referred to as an “trustworthy mistake” and was convicted in Aug. however her attraction towards the sentence was denied in Oct.

U.S. officers met Griner final week, and White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned she was doing “as well as can be expected under the circumstances.” On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre issued a statement that the administration is working “tirelessly” to safe her launch via a possible prisoner change, and referred to as on Russia to enhance the circumstances she can be subjected to.

This uncertainty is a deliberate a part of the punishment course of, says postdoctoral researcher Olga Zeveleva, whose work on the College of Helsinki is concentrated on the development of race and ethnicity in Russian prisons.

“You’re on this state in limbo between one detention establishment and one other, and your legal professionals and your family don’t actually know the place you’re,” she says. This drawn-out switch course of is called etap in Russia and it sees prisoners journey an amazing distance to a penal colony—typically taking the prepare and stopping at detention facilities alongside the way in which.

Right here’s what to know concerning the historical past and circumstances of Russia’s penal colonies.

What’s a penal colony?

Penal colonies are the commonest establishments for Russia’s recorded inhabitants of 467,000 prisoners as soon as they’re transferred from a detention heart.

Learn Extra: Brittney Griner’s Fight for Freedom

The colonies have earned a popularity for his or her brutality. Russia is at the moment house to 642 corrective colonies, in addition to 18 juvenile colonies and eight prisons—which Zeveleva says have an architectural distinction to colonies as they impose restricted motion and more durable safety measures.

What does a typical day in a colony appear to be?

A typical day in a colony differs relying on the particular establishment a prisoner is in, however they constantly have an intensive file of human rights violations together with torture, poor hygiene, and low high quality medical help.

Specialists additionally say there’s a distinction between women and men’s penal colonies. “Girls’s penal colonies are often run extra strictly by the penal administrations, and so they’re extra regime-type prisons the place a day could be very rigidly structured,” Zeveleva says of the kind of establishment Griner can be held, noting that males’s colonies usually tend to be run by native crime bosses or gangs.

Imprisoned women stand during a morning inspection at a women's prison in a town of Sarapul, central Russia, in August 2012. (Yuri Tutov—AP)

Imprisoned girls stand throughout a morning inspection at a girls’s jail in a city of Sarapul, central Russia, in August 2012.

Yuri Tutov—AP

In women’s colonies there may be additionally an expectation for prisoners to hold out every day cleansing duties within the neighborhood, in addition to textile and stitching work. Whereas textile work could be paid, these earnings typically go in direction of any fines incurred by the prisoner on account of their legal file. Griner was fined 1 million rubles (a present worth of $14,334) when she was charged with drug possession and smuggling.

What’s the historical past of penal colonies in Russia?

Resulting from unsuccessful attempts at legal reform after the collapse of the Soviet Union within the Nineties, the present-day Russian jail system has inherited many options of the Soviet system of Gulag camps or arduous labor camps. These options included a collectivist method to rehabilitation, penal labor, and exile to distant areas.

“A lot of Russia’s prisons are geographically and architecturally associated to these camps. They’re the identical constructions that have been in-built Soviet occasions, and so they’re situated in the identical elements of Russia.” Zeveleva says. Penal colonies are situated in distant areas a whole lot of kilometers from any close by cities, making it arduous for prisoners to obtain visitation and join with human rights staff.

The customarily torturous actuality of life within the penal colonies is made potential by how far eliminated they’re from Russian society and international consideration. “These sorts of architectural and infrastructural legacies result in all kinds of issues for people who find themselves imprisoned in society right now,” Zeveleva provides.

Why was Griner’s crew dreading this transfer?

In an announcement on Tuesday, Griner’s brokers mentioned their priority is Griner’s “well being and well-being.”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the frontwoman of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist protest and efficiency artwork group, recalled the brutal conditions she faced on account of a 2012 conviction for “hooliganism motivated by spiritual hatred.” Tolokonnikova mentioned she was subjected to 16-hour work days in a colony stitching store in addition to negligent hygiene rooms with defective plumbing.

For Griner, a homosexual Black girls, there are fears that she’s going to incur extra violence than among the different inmates. Based on a 2021 human rights report by the U.S. Division of State, violations within the colonies consisted of extrajudicial killings-including of LGBTQ+ persons-enforced disappearances, and pervasive torture that would lead to dying or sexual violence.

Moreover, Chechen prisoner Salman Mukayev was reportedly suffocated and electrocuted for hours on suspicion of being homosexual in 2020.

An exterior view of the IK-3 penal colony where jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was reportedly transferred in the city of Vladimir, in April 2021. (Dimitar Dilkoff—AFP/Getty Images)

An exterior view of the IK-3 penal colony the place jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was reportedly transferred within the metropolis of Vladimir, in April 2021.

Dimitar Dilkoff—AFP/Getty Pictures

Regardless of these situations, Zeveleva believes Griner’s case is so excessive profile that she could have a posh expertise within the colonies.

“I might say it’s not very seemingly that she’ll run into quite a bit bodily abuse or torture that we hear about within the information, which isn’t to say that she’ll have a straightforward expertise by any means” she says. “In Russia, race, ethnicity and sophistication intersect in very alternative ways and my assumption can be that Griner can be perceived, at first, as an American prisoner from a developed nation, who has a really excessive profile within the media and is basically fairly well-known. I feel these themes in her identification will most likely stand out probably the most.”

Finally, consultants akin to Zeveleva don’t know the way Griner’s distant location will have an effect on U.S efforts to have interaction in a prisoner swap.

“I’m unsure what the political calculations listed below are. I say that as a result of I’m truly fairly shocked that she has reached this stage and is being despatched to a penal colony,” she says.

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