Brittney Griner’s grim penal colony fate: ‘You’re starved just by the food’

According to former Russian prisoners, their families, and penitentiary experts, Brittney Griner will experience savage conditions inside a Russian jail camp, where putrid food, harsh isolation, and despotic wardens await the WNBA star.

Trevor Rowdy Reed, a former US Marine who had been imprisoned in Russia for almost a year, was exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was serving a 20-year prison term for arranging to smuggle more than $100 million worth of cocaine into New York.

Reed was charged with assaulting two Moscow police officers in August 2019 and detained there for 11 months for his trial before a Russian court sentenced him to nine years in prison in 2020. Later, he was transported 350 miles away to a prison camp in the isolated Russian country of Mordovia, where he endured nine painful months before being switched this year.

Trevor Reed’s father, Joey Reed, told The Post, “You’ve got to remember, the work camps in Mordovia are pre-Stalin era jails; these were actually referred to as gulags.” And even if there is a federal authority over prisons, each warden has unrestricted freedom to act anyway they choose up until it causes a commotion or negative publicity.


Brittney Griner
Officers of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service gather by the entrance to the penal colony in the settlement of Novoye Grishino outside the town of Dmitrov in Moscow region.

According to Balson, The Post, the Russian jail system has received the most complaints from human rights monitors in all of Europe. Among harsh, horrible, and degrading acts, it definitely sticks out.

Prisoners like Griner, who lost her appeal and now faces a nine-year sentence for drug trafficking and possession, are sometimes transported to exceedingly remote locations by van or train on trips that can last for several weeks. During the horrific journeys, the ignorant hostages are typically refused access to necessities like food, water, or bedding, according to Balson.

“They don’t know where they are or where they’re going, and frequently, they don’t find out until they get there,” Balson added. “The prison system effectively disappears prisoners for days or weeks at a time.”

Griner, 32, will complete her sentence in a correctional colony in the summer of 2031, a few months before she turns 41, barring White House intervention or a lower sentence. However, one former American prisoner claimed that the psychological trauma of the two-time Olympian’s harsh confinement may last for years or even decades.


Marvin Makinen, 83, of Chicago, told The Post that “it took me a long time to acclimate to normal society.” I’m still affected by it.

Brittney Griner
Griner was caught with less than a gram of cannabis oil in a vape cartridge at an airport in Moscow earlier this year.

In July 1961, Makinen, who was 21 at the time, was detained in the Soviet Union on suspicion of spying. He was eventually given an eight-year prison term by a secret military court. Before being transported to a work camp in what is now Mordovia, he served two years in the largest and highest-security prison in Russia, Vladimir Prison, which was founded in 1783 by Empress Catherine II. During that time, he spent time in solitary confinement.

Makinen stated, “It becomes quite dismal, there’s a lot of mental agony.” If you don’t do anything to keep your mind occupied, you’re just sitting around stewing, which is bad for your mental health.

Makinen worked as a mason for four months in the labor camp. He lost roughly 55 pounds from his original weight throughout his 28 months in captivity.

vladimir putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Griner’s release is not a personal or political priority.

Makinen recommended that US Embassy representatives advocate for visits to Griner as frequently as possible to prevent jailers from allowing her condition to worsen.

Makinen, who is now a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago, stated, “And I hope that they give her communication, written communication with her family to keep up her mental health.” I could only write one letter every month.