WNBA star Brittney Griner — who was freed Thursday from a Russian prison in a controversial and high-profile prisoner swap — is back in the United States at an Army medical facility in San Antonio where she is undergoing a freed prisoner reintegration program.
The basketball superstar is now at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where she’s expected to undergo “extensive health evaluation” and be screened for things like anemia, electrolyte imbalances, infections and any injuries sustained while in Russian custody, according to San Antonio station KENS5.
“For someone who’s returned from overseas imprisonment, military hospitals like Brooke Army Medical Center are a place to focus on physical and mental health,” Dr. Ralph Riviello of UT Health San Antonio told the local station.
Griner had been playing pro basketball in Moscow but was stopped by authorities in February as she returned through Moscow airport.
Authorities found she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil, which is strictly outlawed in Russia — a country with very strict drug laws. She was later given a nine-year sentence and sent to a penal colony.
Conditions at the penal colony were basic, with 6′ 9″ Garner assigned a small cot to sleep on, being fed very bland meals and conditions so cold her signature dreadlocks would freeze into icicles after a shower, leading her to cut them off.
“It’s very cold in there and every time she washed her hair, she got cold and would get a chill,” her lawyer later said.
Attorney Maria Blagovolina, who represented Griner, added the two-time Olympic gold medalist had recently recovered from a bout with the flu. Because of the unknown nature of foreign prison environments such as risks of catching diseases uncommon in the US and being subjected to practices outlawed in this country, such as torture, returning prisoners have to be assessed and coached to integrate them back into normal life.
Former US Marine Trevor Reed, who was released by the Russians after a different prisoner exchange in August, was taken to the same military facility in Texas when he returned to the US.
Texas Congressman August Pfluger, who worked to get Reed released — after he has spent two years in prison following an arrest for being drunk — previously told The Post how Reed underwent a US government program for captured, missing or isolated Americans returning from hostile environments called Post-isolation Support Activities – which is likely to also be the case for Griner.
“The reintegration process includes the recovery of (an American) then subsequently returning them to society, their medical treatment, reintroduction to their families, and provides decompression time while also conserving any intelligence they may have been able to gather to aid in the prosecution of these criminal organizations,” according to the FBI.
Griner, a Houston native and Baylor University graduate, landed at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas early Friday morning.
Riviello also detailed how the governemnt use returning former prisoners to gather information on foreign regimes.
“(Later, they would seek) more details about what happened to them during their incarceration and what they may have endured. [Such as] Was there any physical violence? Was there any torture? Was there psychological torture or manipulation?”