Inside Brittney Griner’s possible new home, imprisoned in a Russian prison

WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Thursday for cannabis possession and smuggling in Russia.

While it’s not exactly clear where she will be serving her unusually harsh sentence – which she is appealing – Griner could be returned to the women’s prison where she has spent the past six months outside of Moscow.

The prison, called Correctional Colony No. 1, or IK-1, isn’t a Stalin-era gulag, it’s desolate at best.

The facility is a former orphanage that was remodeled a decade ago and turned into a detention center and prison for women to serve out their sentences, the New York Times reported last month.

The overwhelmingly gray and artificially lit prison in the village of Novoye Grishino has its own sewing factory and Russian Orthodox Church inside.

An officer of the Russian Federal Prison Service patrols with a service dog in front of penal colony ?1 in the settlement of Novoye Grishino
WNBA star Brittney Griner has been incarcerated at Correctional Colony No. 1 spent.
AFP via Getty Images
Women queued up and went to Correctional Facility No. 1, or IK-1, Novoye Grishino
The prison includes a pre-trial detention center and an area for female offenders to serve their sentences.
Dimitrov TV
Officials of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service gather at the entrance to the prison
The prison was once the home of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, who was arrested by Russian police in 2019.
AFP via Getty Images

Video footage of the facility shows towering gray walls topped with barbed wire and gives a glimpse of the sewing workshop where dozens of women appear to be at work.

A large, rusting statue of Lenin stands in a snow-covered courtyard.

Journalist Yekaterina Kalugina visited Griner while she was at the facility and told The Times that every day is repetitive and monotonous for the Phoenix Mercury Center.

Every morning, inmates wake up and eat a simple meal in their cell, Kalugina said. Then they can walk around the yard. They then spend the rest of the day either reading books or watching Russian TV.

In front of the prison is a monument to the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin
A large statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin stands in the prison courtyard
AFP via Getty Images
Correctional Colony #1 was converted from an orphanage about 10 years ago.
AFP via Getty Images

Uniquely, the cells have their own washroom, but inmates are only allowed to shower twice a week, she said. You may order groceries online and store groceries in an available refrigerator.

The prison was also formerly home to Israeli-American Naama Issachar, who was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to over seven years in prison after Russian police said she found marijuana in her luggage while catching a connecting flight in Moscow. Vladimir Putin later pardoned her for drug trafficking in 2020.

Brittney Griner walks into a Russian courtroom in shackles
Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia on Thursday.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Brittney Griner grins for the camera behind bars
Griner was convicted of cannabis possession and drug smuggling.

Issachar has been held as a political pawn between Russia and Israel, just as Griner is now with the United States.

Yaffa Issachar, Naama’s mother, told the Times her daughter spent three months at IK-1. She said filling out the paperwork to enter the prison to visit Naama could take up to four hours, followed by a tedious inspection of all the food she brought.

She was treated relatively well, her mother said, and had a visit from a rabbi once a week. Issachar remembered the statue of Lenin, as well as the barking of guard dogs.

Issachar’s mother told the Times her daughter cried when she heard about Griner and feared she could face much harsher treatment as a gay woman in conservative Russia. Inside Brittney Griner’s possible new home, imprisoned in a Russian prison


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