Weinstein, 67, joins a number of others with the financial means to hire prison experts prior to serving time, including Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart, Michael Vick and many of the “Varsity Blues” parents charged in a 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. But unlike them, Weinstein is headed for state prison, which is potentially known to house more violent individuals in less accommodating living conditions than those in federal lockups.
Rothfeld, 45, served two years in prison in 2015 for an $11 million securities fraud. He says he started his firm to help others navigate what he calls “the journey” from living free to incarceration. But his is not the only prison consulting firm.
Others include White Collar Advice, founded by Justin Paperny after his 2009 release from federal prison for securities fraud; Wall Street Prison Consultants, founded by Larry Levine in 2006 after he finished a federal prison sentence for racketeering, securities fraud, obstruction of justice and narcotics trafficking; and the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, co-founded in 1977 by Herbert J. Hoelter and the late Dr. Jerome G. Miller. With a doctorate in social work, Miller was head of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services in the early 1970s when he closed the state’s reform schools in favor of community-based alternatives to juvenile rehabilitation. He and Hoetler earned national reputations for their expertise in sentencing and alternatives to incarceration.
Along with other organizations such as Justice Advocacy Group in Virginia and Jail Time Consulting of Florida, these firms help counsel their clients and their clients’ friends and families on the intricacies of prison life, including visitation, mail and phone calls. Levine’s firm offers those headed to federal prison a program called Fedtime 101 that covers “everything from inmate etiquette to suing a Bureau of Prisons employee,” NBC News reports.
For the client, you’re a therapist, a rabbi, a priest, a marriage counselor and a big brother,” Rothfeld said. “All the questions people have, if you can answer them correctly it sheds a little light on the ultimate mystery: the prison system.”
Though he awaited sentencing at New York’s Rikers Island prison complex, Weinstein was then moved to New York City’s Bellevue Hospital Center and treated for chest pains, diabetes and high blood pressure, according to his spokesman, Juda Engelmayer. Social media lit up with charges of preferential treatment, but Peter Thorn, spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction, disagreed.
“Any suggestion that Weinstein is receiving special treatment is false,” said Thorne. “He has access to the same services as anyone else at his location, no more, no less.
“Everyone thinks he has a sweetheart deal, but he doesn’t,” concurred Rothfeld, who was quoted by The New York Times. “He’s in the hospital, but he’s still in a prison cell – a regular cell, with a toilet open for the world to see.” Weinstein was later transferred to Wende Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison east of Buffalo, New York. There he tested positive for the coronavirus on March 22, 2020. He recovered by April 10, 2020.
As of July 2020, Los Angeles prosecutors planned to take custody of Weinstein to stand trial there on additional sexual assault charges – including forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force, sexual battery by restraint and sexual battery – stemming from alleged incidents with three women in 2010 and 2013. The charges could add 29 years to his incarceration.
Weinstein’s New York conviction stemmed from two sexually predatory attacks, one on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and the other on aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013. Paperny called the challenges facing the disgraced movie producer a “trifecta” of celebrity, sex-crime convictions and medical problems. Hoetler said the former Hollywood mogul would be better taken care of if he were assigned to a medical unit while incarcerated.
“In general (prison) population he’d be certainly, for some people, a target – despite the fact that he is a celebrity – because sex offenders are generally not treated well in prison, whether it’s people who have committed crimes against kids or people involved with offenses like [Weinstein’s],” Hoetler explained.
Paperny rattled off a litany of things clients need to hear before they enter the prison system so that their actions aren’t off-putting to long-term prisoners – taking care to wash their hands after using the restroom, not cutting in line at the chow hall and not shouting on the phone. He advises them to control their anger, remembering that there is a line between guards and prisoners and that crossing that line could be dangerous. They can benefit from sharing their experiences with other prisoners but must beware of the many cliques and personalities in prison and be careful with whom they align themselves.
“Forget your ego,” Hoetler said he would advise Weinstein, who has a reputation for bullying.
“Eyes open. Ears open. Mouth shut,” added Levine.
The consultants added that Weinstein should find a comfortable routine to fall into while also preparing for disruptions – because shakedowns, lockdowns and change are all part of prison life.
“When you go away, you’re entering the Bermuda Triangle,” Rothfeld said. “There’s little information available, and at the lowest point in someone’s life they usually have no idea what’s in front of them.”
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