Brittney Griner Reveals Inhumane Conditions and Suicidal Ideations She Faced in Russian Prison

Opening Up

The WNBA star will speak in detail about her 10-month detainment during a special edition of ABC’s 20/20 with Robin Roberts airing on May 1

WNBA Star Brittney Griner has been back home with her family since December 2022. But the traumatic experience of the ten months that preceded that return to comfort, during which the now-33-year-old was imprisoned in Russia, hasn’t been easy to shake. Griner will discuss that period of her life in detail for the first time in Prisoner in Russia, an upcoming special edition of ABC’s 20/20 with Robin Roberts scheduled to air on May 1.

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“My life is over right here,” Griner recalled in the special preview, reflecting on the pivotal moment in February 2022 when two cannabis vape cartridges were discovered in her carry-on luggage at a Russian airport. She was there to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season. 

The athlete was arrested, claiming she packed the cartridges by mistake. She later pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Griner’s release was secured with a one-for-one prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in December 2022. But in the time before that, she faced inhumane conditions and experienced suicidal ideations while detained at the Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, one of the harshest types of Russian penal colonies for women.

“It was a huge knife sitting on the table and I was just like, now this is going to be a ride. You got to do what you got to do to survive,” she explained. “The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human.”


There were times, Griner shared in the emotional clip, when “I didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through.” Especially in the earliest months of her imprisonment, she continued, “I was just so scared for everything ’cause it just so much unknown.”

Griner has since revealed plans to publish a memoir about that “unfathomable period” of her life, which will also be the focal point of both an upcoming documentary and scripted television series.