Brittney Griner Was Housed in Brutal Russian Prison With ‘No Hot Water’

Brittney Griner gives speech during Women Empowerment Luncheon at NAN 2023 convention day 2 at Sheraton Times Square in New York on April 13, 2023. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Brittney Griner details the hellish conditions she endured inside the Russian prison where she was sent to serve a nine-year sentence.

The WNBA star was arrested at Moscow Airport on Feb. 17, 2022, after officials found vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage. The U.S. government said Griner was “wrongfully detained,” but Russian authorities found her guilty on drug charges.

Following her conviction, the Phoenix Mercury player was transported to Corrective Colony No. 2 or IK-2, a notorious labor camp about 300 miles east of Moscow.

Related StoryBrittney Griner Was Forced to Work Constantly in Russian Labor Camp: ‘There’s No Rest

In an excerpt from her new memoir Coming Home, obtained by Time magazine, Griner details life inside IK-2, where “all inmates work 10-, 12-, or 15-hour-or-longer days.”

“It was basically slave labor,” Griner shares.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist stood out because of her 6 ft 9 in frame, brown skin, and dreadlocks, plus she didn’t speak Russian. She was assigned to live in a room with several other inmates.

“My room had 20 inmates. When I entered, they all just stared,” she shares.

Another “special hell” was the prison’s communal restrooms.

“There was no hot water at IK-2,” she explains. “If you chose to shower — and most didn’t — you heated water in an electric kettle and poured it in your bucket. The shower was a tiny, tiled stall behind a folding screen.”

Griner adds that heating at the facility was spotty and her dreadlocks would freeze when she washed her hair. She started to get sick.

“The nurse in the infirmary took my temperature, which was high, and then gave me Theraflu and sent me back to work,” she writes.

Griner says even when she didn’t bathe, her hair would get wet when inmates were sent outside to exercise, even in the snow.

“Our morning exercises were required even in blizzard conditions,” she explains.

“I started thinking about making it through the coming winter and possibly eight more. The damp mop on my head would make that tougher,” she writes. “In late November I decided to cut it off.”

Another inmate helped her fill out the “application” requesting permission to cut her hair.

Once the request was approved, she was taken to the prison hair salon. But there was another challenge, the hairstylist wasn’t sure what to do with Black hair. Still, Griner said the woman did a good job.

“I showed her a picture of my nephew E.J., who had the short fade I wanted. I gestured for her to snip off the locs,” Griner writes. “Later, when she turned me around to the mirror, I thought, ‘Not bad.'”

After months of negotiations with the Biden administration, Russian authorities released Griner on Dec. 8, 2022, ending her ten-month ordeal.

Coming Home by Brittney Griner with Michelle Burford goes on sale May 7.

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