Brittney Griner Described This Russian Prison As A “Slave Camp”

brittney griner
Zain Murdock
May 24, 2024

For Olympic medalist and WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, bringing vape pens across the Russian border would take her 300 miles from Moscow to a prison with guards pointing AK-47s at her and German shepherds on her heels. The notorious IK-2 prison colony is a forced labor camp.

The Black Russian population is small, less than 100,000 out of the total population of 144 million. Russia also has about half the incarceration rate the U.S. does. However, the horrors of incarceration remain similar.

Griner was told that IK-2’s warden had tortured a woman at a different prison. In her new memoir, she called the disgusting bathrooms “a special hell.” There was no privacy. The prisoners froze when the electricity went out. And, for 10 to 15 hours a day, her group of incarcerated women was forced to perform sweatshop labor, cutting fabric and sewing buttons for 500 Russian military uniforms.

In addition to the strict drug laws that also trap Black people in the U.S., labor exploitation is central to the criminal legal system here. Getting paid cents an hour is the norm, much like Russia’s 300 rubles ($5.00) a month. Worker protections are nonexistent. Torture isn’t unheard of, either.

Griner’s testimony reminds us that dismantling prison violence must happen at a global scale by shaping solidarity rooted in systemic similarities, and learning about the different experiences of Black incarcerated people internationally. Our liberation movements depend on it.