Brittney Griner created a bleak future for herself

Brittney Griner is currently out of touch with friends, family, and even her lawyers as she is sent to an unknown prison camp somewhere in Siberia.  The only certain thing about her future is that it will be terrible. Long before the news began publishing horrific accounts of prison camps in Russia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about his imprisonment in Siberia. The Gulag Archipelago is an exhaustive non-fiction account in three volumes of reports, interviews, statements, diaries, and legal documents regarding prisoners sent to Siberia. Solzhenitsyn added his own experience as a prisoner. The truthful record of ghastly abuse so outraged Soviet authorities that the book was only available underground, and was only published in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Now Brittney Griner is facing conditions scarcely less grim than those outlined in Gulag Archipelago. She went to Russia to earn more money than she could make in the United States. I suppose she wanted to live more lavishly than her salary in this country would allow. Now she will live under conditions that will make the lifestyle possible on an American salary seem like the height of luxury.

Griner will have limited access to health care, live in a crowded under-heated barrack, and have to work long hours for literally pennies. Griner is gay, but that didn't stop her from playing basketball for Russia, a country where gays have minimal rights—gays are legislated against and where gay prisoners in particular are subjected to abuse. She could be targeted by prisoners, guards, or both groups.  She could be killed, and it might take months for the news to filter to the outside world.

Image: Britney Griner. YouTube screen grab.

I can't help feeling sorry for Brittney Griner. She made a venal decision when she chose to play basketball for Russia in the first place, lending her talent to a country far more oppressive than the United States. She made a foolish decision when she chose to take what she knew was an illegal drug to Russia, a country that routinely punishes drug possession with great severity.

However, we all make foolish choices sometimes, and some of us are also guilty of being venal. Most people will not suffer for such faults as badly as Griner has suffered and is going to suffer.

Even if Griner were released today, the experience has probably changed her into a different person. I can't imagine what she will be like if she actually has to remain in that Gulag Archipelago for nine years. I pity her, and all my fellow Americans imprisoned abroad, and I can only hope that they all come home, soon and safe.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.

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