Brittney Griner will enter a system of isolation, grueling labor and psychological torment when she is transferred to a penal colony, the successor to the notorious Russian gulag, to satisfy a nine-year sentence handed down Tuesday in Moscow, former prisoners and advocates stated.
Human rights violations are an everyday characteristic of most of the camps, in accordance with the U.S. State Division, human rights teams and others who’ve maintained common contact with prisoners in Russia. That the WNBA star, who misplaced her enchantment Tuesday, is a homosexual Black lady might add unknown variables to a penal system that’s identified to be distant and harrowing.
“Situations in prisons and detention facilities various however have been typically harsh and life threatening,” a 2021 State Division report on Russian human rights abuses stated. “Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, restricted entry to well being care, meals shortages, and insufficient sanitation have been frequent in prisons, penal colonies, and different detention amenities.”
The report notes that “bodily and sexual abuse by jail guards was systemic,” that torture of prisoners was pervasive — at occasions leading to dying or suicide — and that discriminatory protections towards girls and folks of shade weren’t typically enforced. The regulation additionally doesn’t prohibit discrimination primarily based on sexual orientation.
“Russian prisons are grim, even relative to prisons in different nations. And the Putin regime has ramped up hostility in direction of gays and lesbians as a part of its broader coverage of hard-line nationalism,” stated Muriel Atkin, a Russian historical past professor at George Washington College.
That provides additional considerations to a fraught scenario. Whereas tensions between the White Home and the Kremlin proceed to boil over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, emphasised Tuesday that she believes Moscow is utilizing Griner’s imprisonment as leverage towards the U.S.
“Brittney Griner’s nine-plus yr sentence is considered harsh and excessive by Russian authorized requirements,” Colas stated in an announcement Tuesday on Twitter. “Right now’s disappointing, but unsurprising, enchantment final result additional validates the truth that she is being held hostage and is getting used as a political pawn. Brittney Griner is being held by Russia just because she is an American.”
The kind of penal colony Griner — who was arrested for carrying two cartridges of hashish oil — will probably be despatched to is almost certainly a repurposed Soviet gulag, a brutal system of labor camps and prisons that incarcerated tens of millions of individuals from the Nineteen Twenties to the Nineteen Fifties. Prisoners have been used for farming, mining or logging in sparsely populated areas of the nation or labored in sweatshop circumstances.
Usually such compounds are discovered within the far northern and japanese reaches of Russia as a part of a singular system that goals to each imprison and exile convicts, in accordance with an Amnesty Worldwide report revealed final yr. It could typically take weeks for prisoners to reach on the prisons on jail vehicles and specifically designed practice carriages referred to as Stolypins.
Prisoners are extraordinarily weak and could be tough to find throughout the arduous journeys, Amnesty Worldwide famous. That has gained discover with the imprisonment of high-profile figures, comparable to oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and opposition chief Aleksei Navalny, amongst others.
‘Treating incarcerated girls like cattle’
Tolokonnikova offered some perception right into a Russian jail camp in a letter to a Russian media outlet in 2013, a yr into her sentence, through which she declared a starvation strike for the circumstances she and others have been pressured to stay in.
For these imprisoned alongside her in Penal Colony No. 14 within the Republic of Mordovia, she described working as much as 17-hour days in a stitching store, sleep deprivation, freezing circumstances, an absence of primary hygiene, harmful and humiliating working circumstances, and common assaults on different prisoners.
Tolokonnikova stated that she was spared a few of the abuse due to her celeb however that she would proceed her starvation strike “till the administration begins obeying the regulation and stops treating incarcerated girls like cattle ejected from the realm of justice for the aim of stoking the manufacturing of the stitching trade; till they begin treating us like people.”
The circumstances don’t appear to have modified since then.
Trevor Reed, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, spent almost two years in a Russian penal colony additionally in Mordovia, about eight hours east of Moscow, till the Biden administration was capable of negotiate his launch.
Reed refused to work within the camps and was put in solitary confinement for months in consequence, stated Jonathan Franks, who consulted on the negotiations on behalf of the household. Reed misplaced over 40 kilos and have become extraordinarily sick, as he was not given satisfactory garments to cope with the chilly Russian winter and was fed substandard meals like “spoiled meat that the jail cats wouldn’t even eat,” Franks stated.
“The Russian hinterlands are fairly bleak,” he stated. “The prisons barely feed the prisoners, so it’s typically on the households to ship many of the diet, and that has grow to be more and more tough when it turned inconceivable to interact in monetary transactions in Russia.”