Brittney Griner will reportedly face inhumane conditions at the Russian penal colony where she was recently transferred.
According to The Nation, the WNBA star was transferred to the IK-2 penal colony in Mordovia, which is known as the “land of prisons,” with the freezing, swampy area of “roughly two dozen massive jails”and located about 250 miles southeast of Moscow. The penal colony’s conditions are notoriously racist and homophobic and also lack medical care, according to some reports.
In an interview with MSNBC, Nadya Tolokonnikova, a founding member of the Russian protest and performance art collective Pussy Riot, shed light on what it’s like in IK-2 and what Griner may experience during her nine year sentence. Tolokonnikova spent two years in the same penal colony for “hooliganism” after a protest by her group.
“I’m terrified that Brittney Griner was moved to IK-2,” she told MSNBC. “It’s one of the harshest colonies—it is literally the harshest colony in the whole Russian prison system.”
Article continues after video.
The Moscow-based activist described her detention as “hell on earth,” with “beatings and torture” being commonplace. Tolokonnikova also spoke out about the inhumane working conditions, calling them “slave-like,” with prisoners potentially working 16-17 hour days.
“A lot of prisoners just cannot stand it, and some of them decide to commit suicide,” the feminist added. “And, let’s say you’re being tortured and go to prison doctors to document the fact that you’ve been tortured, obviously, they do not see anything and are not witnesses of your torture.”
Later in the interview, Tolokonnikova expressed that if Griner refused to do hard labor, she would be sent to solitary confinement, which she said was better than the penal colony’s conditions.
The basketball star was found guilty of drug possession in August after police said they discovered vape cartridges infused with cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. She was sentenced to nine years in prison and an appeal against that sentence was denied in October.
U.S. officials maintain that they are actively working to bring her home via a prisoner swap.