(NewsNation) — Conditions at the Mordovia penal colony WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to have been called “hellish” and “slavery-like” by those who have served time there, a report from The Daily Mail says.
Griner was convicted on Aug. 4 after customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. The all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist said she had been prescribed cannabis for pain and had no criminal intent.
After a Russian court rejected her appeal last month, her lawyers said she was taken to the IK-2 colony in Mordovia, a region 350 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Medical care there is almost “non-existent,” with “16-hour work days,” according to The Daily Mail. Musician and activist Nadya Tolokonnikova, who spent two years in a Russian women’s prison, said “beatings and tortures are common.”
Alex Raskin, one of the reporters who wrote the Daily Mail article, says at women’s facilities, they usually start their day around 6 a.m.
“You’re going to have some exercises, and then it’s off to the sewing room,” Raskin said on “Morning in America.”
But Griner will have a difficult situation, even when she’s not working, Raskin added.
“The guards have complete control. There’s very little oversight,” he said. “And nighttime isn’t much better.”
Because Griner is Black, lesbian and American, there is concern that she will also face racism, homophobia and anti-U.S. sentiment while in Russia.
“This is a minefield for her,” Raskin said. The language barrier likely won’t help matters, he added, though some locals have said it might be better if Griner doesn’t know what people are saying because of discrimination.
U.S. officials have tried for months to negotiate Griner’s release, and that of another American jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan, but there have been no overt signs of progress.
President Joe Biden said earlier this month that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to compromise on releasing Griner now that the U.S. midterm elections are over.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens.”
A senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday that a deal is still possible before the year’s end.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.