As her family feared, Brittney Griner is being moved to a Russian penal colony after her nine-year drug conviction was upheld by a court last month.
The WNBA star's lawyers confirmed to CNN that she is "now on her way" to a penal colony in Russia, though they don't know where she is right now or where she's going. "Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received," they said. Griner was arrested in Feb. 2022 for having cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage, and a Russian court sentenced to her nine years in prison following what Secretary of State Antony Blinken described as a "sham trial."
At Russian penal colonies, which are notorious for harsh conditions, "inmates are housed in barracks instead of cells and are often put to work," CNN explains. The State Department says that in Russia, "Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life threatening."
The White House is facing increased pressure to secure Griner's release after proposing a prisoner swap in July. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the White House "made a significant offer" to Russia and has continued to propose "alternative potential ways forward," despite the country's "lack of good faith negotiation."
The New York Times notes that Russian officials "have indicated that a prisoner swap process could not begin in earnest until all legal due process had been fulfilled," and this transfer means "all legal procedures have now been completed."
ESPN also writes that officials have hoped Russia "would be more inclined to negotiate in good faith" after the end of Tuesday's midterm elections, believing Russian President Vladimir Putin's government "would not want to give President Joe Biden a potential political victory." Indeed, President Biden in a news conference Wednesday expressed hope that Putin will be willing to talk "more seriously" about prison exchanges "now that the election is over."