This edition of the Youth Justice Corner is from Deja Jones, our NYC Restorative Justice Fellow at S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective (S.O.U.L.). Deja is a dynamic poet and passionate organizer. She has questions about Brittney Griner, the two-time gold medalist and center for the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team, who is currently detained in Russia. Deja has previously joined the WNBA NY Liberty team and the Vera Institute to participate in their Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration. She has organized with S.O.U.L. as a fellow, and created programming focused on listening to the voices of young women, femmes and TGNC people who have experienced injustice at the hands of the state as a restorative practice.
Brittney Griner- Why Isn’t She Home Yet?
On February 17th, 2022, Brittney Griner, while trying to travel home to the U.S from Moscow, Russia was arrested by the Russian police. She was stopped at the Russian airport, found with oil cartridges filled with hash oil, and charged with intentionally transporting narcotics. Before being charged with anything, there was no concrete evidence that Griner was arrested. There were beliefs that the Russian Government was holding Griner hostage, and it was later confirmed that she was arrested by an independent Russian agency. Since her arrest, the media has been trying hard to make sure that every piece of attainable information is being released. Brittney Griner as well as her wife have been reaching out constantly to United States President Joe Biden in hopes of prioritizing Griner’s release back to the United States. There have been five hearings during this trial, ongoing since February.
Britney Griner stood in court on Thursday, July 7th, and pleaded guilty to the charges brought against her. She told the judge “ I’d like to plead guilty your honor,but there was no intent. I did not want to break the law.” According to independent.co.uk, with Griner pleading guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison. Griner is scheduled to appear in court again Thursday, July 14th, and again on July 26th for her defense to offer testimony. Russian officials have said Griner can seek clemency or appeal after a verdict is handed down.
What is hash oil? Hash oil is a concentrated liquid formed with cannabinoids. In Russia, cannabis or hash oil is considered a Schedule 1 drug- which is illegal. However, in Russia, anyone found with less than 6 grams of cannabis or 2 grams of hash can be fined or serve jail time for up to 15 days. Brittney Griner was found with less than a gram of hash oil. She was arrested in February. Why is Brittney Griner being held so long for such a minor offense in Russia?
Brittney Griner is being penalized for being an openly Black queer woman. In Russia, there are laws in place that ban same-sex marriage, and the ‘propaganda of homosexuality to protect minors.’ Griner is also being penalized for subsidizing her income due to pay inequality, as many WNBA players do during their careers. Griner makes only $220K in a season of WNBA, as opposed to male NBA players who make anywhere from 27 to 41 Million dollars per season. When taking the time to learn about the laws that Russia has surrounding cannabis and hash oil, you start to ask questions; is this a hate crime? Does Russia have a bigger plan with Brittney Griner than? How can we support her?