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Russian Prisons Are Frequently Drab, Claustrophobic Establishments Here is What Brittney Griner Might Experience

Brittney Griner, a star player for the US women’s basketball team, is moving to a Russian correctional colony, where circumstances are frequently harsh and have alarmed international watchdogs. The notorious prison colonies of Russia are not like Western prisons. What you should know is as follows.

Griner has been sent somewhere. Attorneys for Griner claimed they were unsure of Griner’s specific final destination at this time. That is not unusual because, according to Amnesty International, the transfer of a prisoner to a correctional colony in Russia is done in secret, frequently keeping family members and attorneys in the dark for several days.

Griner’s attempt to overturn a nine-year drug conviction was unsuccessful last month. She was taken into custody in February and found guilty of purposefully transporting drugs into Russia in August. She has often expressed regret for entering the nation, where she played off-season basketball, with a trace amount of marijuana.

Lindsay Colas, her agent, stated that “BG’s health and well-being remain our top priorities.” “We ask for the public’s help in continuing to write messages and express their love and concern for her as we struggle through this extremely difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing,” the statement reads. Griner’s incarceration has sparked worries that she is being exploited as a pawn in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine on the political front.

A Penal Colony Is What?

According to a study by the Polish-based think tank the Centre for Eastern Studies, the great majority of prisons in Russia are actually penal colonies where inmates are kept in barracks rather than cells and frequently forced to labor (OSW).

According to the group, there were more than 800 such facilities spread across Russia as of 2019. The majority were constructed during the Soviet Union and have been compared by think tanks and human rights organizations to the harsh prison camps known as gulags that spread over the region in the middle of the 20th century under Joseph Stalin’s authority.

According to the World Prison Brief, Russia has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe, housing up to 500,000 convicts throughout all of its facilities. However, numbers have decreased recently, in contrast to most other regions of the world.

Depending on the type of facility they are condemned to—and not all of them require labor—inmates today are subject to varying degrees of supervision and limitations. However, a number of well-known dissidents, campaigners, and foreign nationals who were deported to draconian colonies have spoken about their traumatic and challenging experiences.

How Are The Circumstances?

According to a report by Amnesty International, prisoners are frequently transported over great distances within the nation, and trips to colonies can be perilous and last up to a month. The watchdog claimed that those trips frequently take place in crowded railway cars. Additionally, the OSW discovered that inmates frequently enter facilities with deteriorating infrastructure and overcrowded conditions.

The OSW stated that despite numerous attempts at reform, Russian prisons remain to resemble the Soviet Gulag in that torture and abuses of human rights are frequent. One former prisoner, Konstantin Kotov, was imprisoned for violating Russian anti-protest laws and received two harsh sentences—the first for four months and the second for six months—in Penal Colony No. 2 outside of Moscow.

He spoke to CNN last year on the experience of prisoners; he was most recently released in December 2020. On March 1, 2021, in the village of Pokrov, guards from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service stand guard by the entrance to the penitentiary colony N2, where Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been sent to serve a 2.5-year sentence for parole violation.

Russia first poisoned him. This is currently Alexey Navalny’s jail facility. “You are under mental and moral strain from the first minutes you are here,” he told CNN. “You are required to act in ways that you would never normally. You are not allowed to converse with other prisoners.

You are compelled to memorize the employee roster through force. From 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., you spend the entire day standing up. You are not permitted to take a seat. You are not permitted to read, and you are not permitted to write a letter. It might linger for two or even three weeks.

Prisoners use iron bunk beds in barrack rooms, according to Kotov. He claimed that between 50 and 60 men, each with a meager amount of living space, slept in his room. “Every day the anthem of the Russian Federation,” he added, “you get up at six in the morning, you go out to the courtyard nearby, and you listen to it.” “You are unable to read or write. For instance, I spent virtually the whole day watching Russian state networks. This is television torture.

What Have Other Well-Known Prisoners Said?

Griner is hardly the only prominent person who has been sent to a penal colony. Alexey Navalny, the leader of the jailed Russian opposition, was able to share his initial views of a facility in a post on his official Instagram account last year.

Navalny added that his head had been shaved and remarked, “I had no notion that it was feasible to arrange a real concentration camp 100km from Moscow. Everywhere there are cameras, everyone is being monitored, and the smallest infraction is reported. In allusion to the well-known dystopian book “1984”, Navalny remarked, “I believe someone upstairs read it.

Additionally, members of the Pussy Riot activist art collective received prison sentences. This isn’t a structure with cells, Maria Alyokhina, a participant, told Reuters last week that this place “looks like a bizarre village, like a Gulag labor camp.”

Because all convicts are required by law to work, the place is basically a labor camp. The somewhat cynical aspect of this labor is that inmates typically sew uniforms for the Russian army and the police for free. Alyokhina claimed that 80 women stayed in one room with just three bathrooms and no hot water in the “living zone,” which was separated from the manufacturing section where the inmates produced clothing and gloves.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, another member, staged a hunger strike in 2013 in opposition to being sent back to Mordovia’s Penal Colony No. 14. Reporting assistance came from CNN’s Matthew Chance, Zahra Ullah, Anna Chernova, Abby Phillip, and Rhea Mogul.

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