Brittney Griner's Russian Prison Reality: 'I Felt Like Leaving Here So Badly'

Brittney Griner

WNBA star Brittney Griner is opening up and revealing the harsh reality she experienced while detained in a Russian prison for nearly a year.

In a recent interview on ABC's "20/20," she reflected on the "mistake" that led to her traumatic experience, as well as what it was like being there and the thoughts that went through her mind.

Brittney Griner Detailed The Emotional Stress She Suffered While In A Russian Prison

Brittney Griner

The Phoenix Mercury star spent nearly a year in Russian custody after being detained in February 2022. She was sentenced to nine years in prison after cannabis oil was found in her luggage.

Griner, 33, has opened up to reveal what she was thinking in the early weeks of being detained, and what made her ultimately choose to "endure" the difficult living conditions.

"I wanted to take my life more than once in those first weeks. I felt like leaving here so badly," Griner said during the interview that aired on Wednesday evening.

"I just didn't think I could get through what I need to get through. I definitely thought about it. But then, I was just like, 'What if they didn't release my body to my family?' I can't put them through that. I have to endure this."

The 'Mistake' That Led To Brittney Griner's Arrest In Russia

Griner detailed the day that drastically changed her life. She said the whole day felt "strange."

"I was late getting up. Never late getting up, finally got up, literally running around the house, I'm stressing.  I go into straight panic mode," she said. She explained that her wife Cherelle is usually the one who packs for her, but this time, she did it herself. "My packing at that moment was just throwing all my stuff in there and zipping it up and saying, 'Okay, I'm ready.'"

While at the Moscow Airport, she was told to search her backpack and that's when she felt the cannabis oil cartridge.

"In Arizona, cannabis is legal. In Russia, it's forbidden. I knew that, honest to God, I just totally forgot the pen was in my bag," she explained. "In the midst of them going through my bags, there's two cartridges. I'm just like 'Oh my God, how did I make this mistake? How was I this absent-minded and made this huge mistake?' I could just visualize everything I've worked so hard for just crumbling and going away."

For skeptics who feel she should have known better, Griner explained how easy it is to have a "mental lapse" for anyone, ultimately saying she should have known the cartridges were in her bag.

"Have you ever forgot your keys in your car, left your car running? Have you ever, where's my glasses, they're on top of your head? Where's my phone? Oh, it's in my pocket," she explained.

"It's just so easy to have a mental lapse. Granted, my mental lapse was on a more grand scale but it doesn't take away how that can happen."

Brittney Griner Revealed The Conditions In Jail

Brittney Griner

Griner shared the poor conditions she had to endure while detained in the correctional facility in Russia called Correctional Colony No 1,or IK-1.

"The mattress had a huge blood stain on it and they give you these thin two sheets so you're basically laying on bars," she said.

"From the middle of my shin to my feet stuck through the bars, which in prison, you don't really want to stick your leg and arm through bars because someone go up and grab it, break it, twist it and that's what was going through my mind."

The WNBA star said she would get one roll of toilet paper a month and some months, none. And she was given toothpaste that expired 15 years ago. "We used to put it on the black mold to kill the mold on the wall," she revealed.

She was later sent to IK-2, a work camp, known as one of the worst prisons in Russia.

On December 8, 2022, she was released in a swap deal for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Brittney Griner's Memoir 'Coming Home' Releases On May 7


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Earlier this year, Griner announced that her memoir, "Coming Home" will be released on May 7. She shared some information about the book on her Instagram page.

"COMING HOME is a story of hope and survival, of before and after. Before, on my way to Russia, a place I’ve called my second home, I was excited to win another title. For eight seasons I played there, won there, and lived there for long stretches. A short time later and a world away, I woke up in an after I’d wish on no one," she wrote on social media.

"COMING HOME begins in a land where my roots developed and is the diary of my heartaches and regrets. But, ultimately, the book is also a story of how my family, my faith, and the support of millions who rallied for my rescue helped me endure a nightmare."

Many of her followers are excited to get their hands on a copy of the book as soon as it's available.

"I can’t wait to read this. I prayed every day for your safe and quick return. We never met but at that moment we were sisters," one person wrote. Another added, "Such an important story to be told, and read."

Brittney And Cherelle Griner Are Expecting Their First Child!

In July, Griner and wife Cherelle will be meeting their "favorite human being." The couple announced that Cherelle is pregnant in mid-April on Instagram.

"Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being," they captioned a photo of sonogram photos. They also used #BabyGrinerComingSoon and #July2024 to help share the news.

It didn't take long for tons of congratulatory messages to fill the comment section of the post.

"Congratulations Relle and BG! You both are going to be amazing parents!" one person wrote.

Another said, "I'm so excited and can't wait for this blessing to enter the world!"