Welcome home Brittney Griner


Courtesy of Brian Snyder

After over 200 days of residing in Russian detention centers and the IK-2 penal colony, WNBA star Brittney Griner can finally join her family and friends for the holiday season. Because of a prisoner swap involving Griner and former Soviet Union lieutenant Viktor Bout, Griner received her freedom. With help from the Biden administration, Griner can spend the holidays with her family.

Ren Lloyd, Reporter

After a long 10 months of residing in a Russian prison, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner finally regained her freedom. Through a prisoner tradeoff with Russia, Brittney will no longer serve her 9-year sentence. Although Brittney, her family and her team endured a long fight for her freedom she finally received justice.

In early February, Russian officials detained Griner for illegal drug possession at a Moscow airport. The Russian court accused Griner of smuggling illegal narcotics into Russia. Months later in August, judge Anna Sotnikova sentenced Griner to 9 years and also fined her 1 million rubles (about 16,700 USD). Three months after her conviction, she moved to a Russian penal colony IK-2 to complete her sentence. At a news conference December 8, President Biden said Griner would come home within 24 hours. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner had maintained public pressure on the White House not to forget about her wife. 

In Russian penal colonies, inmates often live in extremely harsh conditions and perform hard labor daily. Inmates living in penal colonies would arrive at a dilapidated facility miles away from normal civilization. Inmates sleep in iron bunk beds in overcrowded barracks with little free time or sleep. During Griner’s stay at the colony, she did receive benefits such as a larger living space, however, those benefits did not stand a chance against the conditions of the labor camp.  

“IK-2, where Brittney Griner was sent, is known as one of the harshest correctional facilities in the Russian Federation…it’s the location conditions there, the guards that work there, but also just the horrible conditions and human rights abuses,” University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Tyler Kirk said

Griner no longer suffers the conditions of the penal colony or any Russian prison for that matter. After her detainment the Biden administration worked towards a prisoner swap to bring Griner back to the U.S. Finally, the U.S. and Russia successfully swapped Griner for prisoner and arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout previously worked as a lieutenant for the Soviet Union and served as a military translator. Bout agreed to sell 100 surface-to-air missiles to undercover U.S. agents disguised as FARC guerillas. Prior to his swap with Griner, he continued serving his 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to terrorist groups. 

“Brittney Griner’s freedom is an achievement for Joe Biden because he was definitely under pressure to do so and we saw in public how her wife stood up for her. Her wife made America contemplate whether the length Griner spent in Russia waiting for us negotiation was related to racism, homophobia, and misogynoir. I don’t know if the trade was the best from a national and even global standpoint. This adds to Putin’s list of sinister advisors that console him as he continues to wreak havoc on Ukraine. The US should have gotten more hostages back. Namely some of the Americans being held in prisons in Russia that had been locked up for 3 times the amount of time Griner had been,” magnet senior Jerrica Arnett. 

After Russia and the U.S. completed the prisoner exchange at the Abu Dhabi airport, Griner boarded a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Upon Griner’s arrival to the U.S., she will undergo a medical evaluation to ensure she did not acquire any health issues during her time in Russia. America patiently awaits what Griner will say about her time in the penal colony, but for now, people will celebrate her freedom.