According to her attorneys, Brittney Griner, the WNBA star being held captive by Russia, has been sent to a prison camp somewhere in the nation. Although the exact camp to which Griner has been sent is still unknown, testimony from captives, including other Americans, describes the appalling conditions she is likely to experience there.
Griner had been kept in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility ever since her arrest in February for possessing a tiny quantity of cannabis oil-containing vape cartridges.
The United States claims that Russia used the incident to fabricate serious drug trafficking allegations against Griner in an effort to use her as a political pawn. She is currently being sent to a camp outside of the capital after a court upheld the 9-year sentence against her late last month.
Inmates are typically confined in dilapidated, packed barracks, sometimes with 50 to 60 sleeping in rows of bunks. The camps, also known as penal colonies, are frequently old Soviet gulag prison camps.
According to Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was kept captive like Griner and detained in a camp for nearly two years, the conditions there were “Dickensian” in 2020, he told ABC News.
“It’s not good at all. Very deteriorated, “Whelan later stated when speaking from his cell. We essentially live on top of one another.
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Paul Whelan, a former Marine, speaks from a Russian jail: Exclusive to ABC News
Prisoners only have access to a few shared restrooms and are only allowed to take a shower once or twice per week; the rest of the time there is no hot water, according to Whelan.
Whelan is being detained in Mordorvia’s Correctional Colony-17, one of the many prison camps in the area known as Mordovia, which is located around 300 miles from Moscow. The other former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, who was held for 986 days until being released in a prisoner swap earlier this year, was imprisoned at a nearby camp.
Griner will almost definitely also be transferred to a detention facility for foreign female prisoners.
Whelan claimed that because it frequently drops below freezing outside and many inmates are ill, the barracks get very cold throughout the winter. Prisoners frequently complain that their requests to visit doctors are turned down for weeks and that they are frequently deprived of medication to address chronic ailments. Medical care is very poor in the camps.
Prisoners are required to work in the camps, usually sewing clothes or producing other goods, sometimes including tourist souvenirs. Prisoners put in eight hours a day, sometimes more, in conditions akin to sweatshops for a meager paycheck each month.
According to Whelan, on a typical day, convicts get up at 6 a.m. and are carried out to the parade field for 15 minutes of physical activity before beginning their labor duties.
The widespread use of physical abuse in Russian prisons is well known, but the majority of experts think that high-profile detainees like Griner will be spared from it because it would diminish their value as bargaining chips and embarrass the authorities.
Both Reed and Whelan claimed they were shielded from physical harm but were subjected to psychological pressure, such as solitary confinement. In May, Reed admitted to ABC News that he frequently served 15-day confinement terms as a result of his refusal to perform labor for his captors.
In those cells, which are typically only a few meters in size and occasionally have holes in the floor for toilets, inmates are not permitted to lie down or, in some cases, even to sit during the day.
According to his family, Whelan has been put on an escape watch list, which means that every night for years, he has been awakened every two hours to check that he is still there by having a flashlight shone in his face.