Brittney Griner’s story shows how America fails its citizens in extradition


Illustration by Adelyn Sim ’24

In recent news, WNBA star Brittney Griner has been arrested in Russia for the possession of cannabis oil. Due to the failures of the United States federal government to negotiate her extradition to the United States, Griner now faces a grim reality of harsh and unjust imprisonment in Russia. For those who may be unfamiliar with the legal term, extradition is defined as, “the surrender of an alleged criminal usually under the provisions of a treaty or statute by one authority (such as a state) to another having jurisdiction to try the charge.” If Griner was extradited to the United States, she would certainly face a much fairer and unbiased justice system. With that being said, the United States State department has failed drastically thus far in their negotiations with Russian powers. 

To understand the prosecution of Brittney Griner, it is incredibly important to understand the crime itself that has placed her under such legal scrutiny.  

Griner was arrested at the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow with a vape containing a minuscule amount of cannabis oil. Furthermore, Griner’s defense attorneys have presented evidence that she was medically prescribed cannabis to alleviate the chronic pain that she experiences. Griner has been kept in the harsh environment of a Russian jail, and it does not seem like she will be getting out anytime soon. Griner has been sentenced to 9 years in prison by a Russian judge (only one year under the maximum sentence allowed).  

In response to the unjust punishment that Griner is facing, the United States government has attempted to negotiate an extradition treaty with the Russian authorities, but so far, their efforts have been futile.  

The US State department has even gone as far as to offer the extradition of notorious Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout, in exchange for the extradition of Brittney Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan. Furthermore, there are now talks of Alexander Vinnik, a Russian cyber-criminal, being included in the release deal as well. Quite frankly, this is a very lopsided and generous offer. Nonetheless, the government is drastically failing to display a show of strength and poise that would encourage Russia to allow for the extradition of Brittney Griner. They have made generous offers and have spent a tremendous amount of time and resources, but quite frankly Putin is unintimidated by the current administration in such negotiations. 

The fact of the matter is that Brittney Griner is unjustly serving a harsh sentence within the flawed justice system of a foreign country. The United States has a clear obligation to maintaining a sense of safety and justice for its constituents even in matters overseas. Thus far, the United States has failed to do so in the case of Brittney Griner.