When WNBA star Brittney Griner arrived home in the United States after being detained in Russia for 10 months, many noticed that the Phoenix Mercury standout lacked her signature locs and instead had shortly cropped hair — a change in appearance attributable to the conditions of the penal colony near Mordovia where she was being held.
According to a report by T.J. Quinn of ESPN, Griner’s attorney Maria Blagovolina stated that Griner had cut her locs off in order to prepare for the Russian winter, and because they had kept freezing after showers while in prison. Griner, who was arrested in February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at an airport in Moscow, had been imprisoned at Women’s Penal Colony No. 2 near Yavas in Mordovia, some 300 miles southeast of Moscow.
“It’s very cold in there and every time she washed her hair she got cold and would get a chill,” Blagovolina told ESPN. “She should have waited until New Year’s Day.”
During her time at the penal colony, Griner’s primary responsibility was carrying fabric, as she was too tall — at 6-foot-8 — to sit at worktables and her hands were too large to manage the job of sewing uniforms with other prisoners.
“She had honestly no complaints,” Blagovolina said. “Things could have been much worse.”
After several months of negotiations between the United States and Russia, Griner was released from prison on Thursday and flown back to the United States in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout. The plan is for Griner to be observed at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston before returning home to Phoenix.