Rolling Out

Brittney Griner breaks down describing inhumane conditions in Russian prison

Griner tears up from the terror she felt after her arrest and imprisonment in a decrepit jail cell in Russia
Brittney Griner speaks to the media on May 19, 2023. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

WNBA superstar Brittney Griner’s feelings are still very raw from spending nearly a year in a Russian prison in 2022, languishing amid disgusting and deplorable conditions.

Griner, 33, opens up in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts for ABC News about how the Phoenix Mercury center lived in “a cage” in abject fear and battered by suicidal ideations during her 10-month confinement.

“My life is over right here,” Griner recalled the moment in February 2022 when two cannabis vape cartridges were discovered in her carry-on luggage at a Russian airport. Griner flew there annually to play for a Russian basketball team in order to supplement her paltry WNBA income.  

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Brittney Griner was plagued with thoughts of taking her own life

After Griner was arrested, she later pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges and was sentenced to nine years of hard labor in a Russian prison camp.

Griner was transported to the Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, called one of the most brutal penal colonies for women in the communist country. 

“It was a huge knife sitting on the table and I was just like, now this is going to be a ride. You got to do what you got to do to survive,” she recalled to Roberts. 

“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human.”

Griner said there were times when “I didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through. I was just so scared for everything ’cause it [was] just so much unknown.” 

Brittney Griner’s horrific story shared in a book, documentary, and TV series

Finally, the U.S. State Department and the Biden White House were able to procure Griner in December 2022 in a person swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

Since returning to the U.S. and playing last season for the Mercury, Griner revealed plans to pen a memoir about that “unfathomable period” of her life. Meanwhile, her horrific journey will reportedly be the subject of an upcoming documentary and a scripted television series.

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