The wrongful incarceration of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner in Russia is one of the most talked-about stories in the news currently. Everyone knows that prisons anywhere are no luxury experience, but what is the Russian prison where Griner is being held truly like? Journalist Yekaterina Kalugina visited Griner at the center to see for herself what the conditions are like.
The Conditions Inside The Russian Prison Where Brittney Griner Is Being Held
Since Russian authorities detained Brittney Griner for possession of some vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in February, they have held her in a women’s prison just outside of Moscow. That prison is called Correctional Colony No. 1, or IK-1, and is located in the town of Novoye Grishino. Last week, a Russian judge sentenced Brittney Griner to 9 years in a Russian prison, which Americans, including President Biden, are calling wrongful and unnecessarily harsh.
It has not yet been determined if that is where Griner will serve her sentence or if they will take her to a prison elsewhere in the country. Of course, people are wondering what the conditions are like for basketball’s wonder woman. This is especially since former Russian prisoners have explained what conditions they experienced while behind bars in the former Soviet Union. Reporter Yekaterina Kalugina decided to go visit Brittney Griner herself to see just what life is like behind those towering gray walls.
Inside The Prison Where Brittney Griner Could Be Spending The Next 9 Years
Though Brittney Griner and her lawyers are appealing her nine-year prison sentence, until that happens (and if it is successful), she is expected to continue to carry out her sentence. We do not yet know if she will be staying at the prison where she has lived for the past six months or if they will move her to a different facility. Until then, we do know a little bit about the correctional facility where she is currently living in a small town outside of Moscow.
At first glance, the building itself does not exactly scream “homey”. As can be expected, it looks cold, gray, and uninviting. The tall gray-colored walls are crowned with barbed wire around the entire perimeter of the facility. Inside the walls there is a Russian Orthodox Church as well as a sewing factory where the inmates work. (1)
The facility itself is actually a former orphanage. About ten years ago they rebuilt the facility and turned it into a women’s prison. Women who are on trial are held separately from those who have already been convicted. The halls inside the facility are tall and also painted gray, with bleak, artificial lighting inside. (2)
A Day In The Life of Brittney Griner, Currently
Prior to her detainment, Brittney Griner’s days were spent training, preparing for games, traveling, and playing basketball. Since February 17th, however, all of that has changed. Now, every day Griner wakes up and is served some basic food for breakfast in her cell. She is then permitted to join the rest of the inmates for a walk around the courtyard, which is covered by a net. The rest of the day she spends reading and watching television. The only catch with the TV is that it is completely in Russian.
One aspect of this prison that is different from most Russian prisons is that each cell has its own bathroom. They are only allowed to take a shower twice per week, however. She has a refrigerator to store groceries and is allowed to order food online. They are allowed visitors but can only look at them through the glass and talk to them through a telephone. The only people allowed to sit with them in person are religious people, such as a priest or a rabbi.
Naama Issachar’s Experience
Naama Issachar is an Israeli-American who also was detained in Russia for a similar reason back in 2019. Putin pardoned her after 10 months after she was arrested, but Issachar was a political pawn between Russia and Israel. Griner is now in the same position between Russia and the United States.
Issachar says she was treated fairly well in the prison and was allowed to speak with a Rabbi once a week to continue practicing her religious beliefs. She fears for Griner, however, as a gay woman in a Russian prison. Russia has a highly conservative attitude towards homosexuality and strict laws regarding it. Issachar is afraid that because Griner is gay, they may not treat her the same.
For now, we are still awaiting information as to whether or not Griner will remain at IK-1 or if they will move her elsewhere. Issachar was passed through three different facilities, including IK-1, when they detained her. Hopefully, some kind of deal can be made between the United States and Russia soon to bring Brittney Griner home.