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What awaits Brittney Griner after her arrival in San Antonio?

The Bring Our Families Home coalition spoke to KENS 5 about the likely next steps in Griner's recovery

SAN ANTONIO — Brittney Griner is now back in the United States after landing in San Antonio early Friday morning. She was freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange after 10 months of captivity in Russia.

Griner is now expected to go through an extensive health evaluation at the Brooke Army Medical Center. The Bring Our Families Home coalition spoke to KENS 5 about what prisoners can endure in Russia, and what the next steps may entail.

Bring Our Families Home is comprised of families whose members have been wrongfully held hostage or detained overseas. Spokesman Jonathan Franks said the organization works to shed a light on those situations, advocating for prisoner trades and other measures to bring people home. 

Griner's family members started working with the organization in May. 

"I call it the club nobody wants to join," Franks said. "It's really important to shine a bright spotlight and be loud. The more noise you make, the more protected your loved one is. The hostage-takers notice."

The Biden administration announced Thursday morning that Griner was released in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

Franks said he didn't have exact details on what would happen at BAMC but said Griner would likely go though a "post-isolation-support-activity" program. Part of this is a medical screening and another part is likely a psychological assessment. 

Franks said his organization has also worked with Trevor Reed's family and is currently working with Paul Whelan's family as the former U.S. Marine remains detained. He said conditions in Russian work camps can be horrible. 

"There is a wildly resistant strain of TB (tuberculosis) that apparently runs rampant in Russian prisons," Franks said. "I'm not remotely suggesting Brittany has this, but I found out that syphilis runs though Russian prisons and you can get it through filth. Also, many prisoners come back with a hacking cough. They normally need a full workup."

Franks told KENS 5 there can also be psychological abuse. He says people held in Russian prisons are told when they can eat, sleep and even speak—adding that disobedience is punished severely. 

After spending time in that environment, returning to a society where you aren't constantly in fear of stepping out of line can be jarring.

"Getting them to learn how to make choices, like selecting food from a menu or deciding how they are going to spend time or who will be in their personal space... when you haven't made choices in a long time, it takes a minute to get your confidence back," Franks said. 

Finally, Franks said recovering on a military base gives an individual privacy. Griner is a WNBA star, and Franks believed she would likely deal with paparazzi on a consistent basis if she went home.  

Franks said their coalition would still work to get Whelan released and there are sill Russian prisoners held by the U.S. that he believes Putin, or the Kremlin, would like back.  

He said he believes no American should go to Russia unless they are a trained individual pursuing a negotiation. 

"No civilian American has a reason to visit Russia," Franks said.  "I understand that's a harsh thing to say. People have family. But it doesn't help your family if you get kidnapped. We've got to stop giving them free shots at us." 


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