While convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein waits to hear how many years he’ll spend in prison, he’ll be living at the one of the most notorious jail complexes in the United States – Rikers Island.
Weinstein, 67, faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of more than two decades in prison. His lawyers say he will appeal.
Weinstein has been working with a consultant in recent months to prepare him for prison, according to his spokesperson. But Rikers – with its reputation for maltreatment – will be a far cry from the red carpet for the disgraced movie mogul.
On his way to Rikers Island after his conviction February 24, Weinstein suffered chest pains, heart palpitations and high blood pressure. He was rerouted to Bellevue Hospital, his attorney Donna Rotunno said.
Doctors at Bellevue determined Weinstein had a blockage and on Wednesday, they performed a heart procedure during which they inserted a stent, his publicist Juda Engelmayer told CNN.
He was taken to the Rikers infirmary unit Thursday, the Department of Corrections said.
Weinstein’s lawyers had tried to keep their high-profile client out of the infamous complex, arguing that he has “significant medical issues.”
“He’s under the care of five doctors currently. He’s dealing with the remnants of his back operation which was not successful. He’s in need of the walker. He takes a list of different medicines. Judge, he’s currently receiving shots in his eyes so he does not go blind,” Rotunno told the court after the verdict was handed down.
Rotunno suggested Weinstein be kept on the same conditions of bail imposed during his trial – wearing an ankle monitor – or that he be placed under house arrest.
Failing that, Rotunno asked that her client be sent to the north infirmary unit at Rikers’ Anna Kross building. That is where Weinstein was taken Thursday.
It will be a rough landing for Weinstein, former Hollywood royalty more accustomed to being protected by VIP ropes rather than razor wire.
A symbol of the ills of pretrial detention
According to the city of New York, the Anna M. Kross Center where Weinstein is being held opened in 1978 and houses male inmates in a 40-acre facility.
Rikers is New York City’s primary jail and has been able to house up to 15,000 inmates in 10 separate jails.
Most inmates are awaiting trial or serving sentences of one year or less. While Weinstein has already been convicted and faces at least 5 years in prison, he is not due to be sentenced until March 11.
Originally about 87 acres, the island was manually expanded to more than 400 acres lying between Queens and the Bronx and accessed by a single-lane bridge.
The jail has become a symbol of the ills of pretrial detention, most famously in the case of Kalief Browder. Browder took his own life in 2015 after spending three years incarcerated at Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime.
That same year, the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York reached a settlement with the city after an investigation found adolescent inmates were not protected from “the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction staff and violence inflicted by other inmates.”
Also in 2015, two women sued a corrections officer at Rikers Island and the city of New York, claiming that they were raped repeatedly by the officer with the complacency and consent of the city.
The explosive class action detailed reports of serial rape and sexual abuse by eight corrections officers at the all-female Rose M. Singer Center, including a case where an inmate was dragged into a janitor’s closet and another where the inmate became pregnant.
“This abuse is only possible because, in the face of repeated warnings, the City of New York has enabled a culture of complacency to perpetuate at Rikers Island and thereby consented to the abuse of women in its custody,” the suit alleged.
According to The New York Times, the city settled the lawsuit two years later, as did the corrections officer it named.
Last December, the New York City Department of Correction confirmed a New York Times report that it had suspended three officers and one captain after an 18-year-old inmate was found unresponsive at Rikers in November.
At least five corrections officers did not act for seven minutes while the inmate tried to hang himself, according to The New York Times, which cited four people with knowledge of the matter. Some of the corrections officers watched the suicide attempt, according to the newspaper.
‘The era of mass incarceration is over’
The prison’s reputation for violence and poor conditions finally caught up with it last year when the New York City Council in October voted overwhelmingly to shut the facility and open four new borough-based facilities instead.
“The era of mass incarceration is over. It’s over,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference after the vote.
“This is about valuing our people, no longer condemning people and sending them on a pathway that only made their lives worse and worse.”
In 2017, de Blasio set a timeline of 10 years to reduce the overall jail population in the city, which he said would allow for a “complete departure of all inmates from Rikers Island.”
The following year, the New York State Commission of Correction released a report into problematic jails damning the facility.
“Rikers Island continues to be plagued by managerial failures, significant structural problems, regulatory compliance failures, identified deficiencies that remain unaddressed, and unabated harm to both staff and inmates alike. The Commission has sought to assist Rikers management in addressing these and many other deficiencies, and facilitate improvements, but those efforts have not been successful, further highlighting the need for closure of all jail facilities located on Rikers Island.”
Whatever sentence Weinstein receives, Rikers is likely to close while he is still behind bars.
For the charge of criminal sex act in the first degree, he faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 25 years in prison.
For the charge of rape in the third degree, he essentially faces no minimum prison time and a maximum of four years.
Weinstein’s attorneys argued that the sexual encounters were consensual. As evidence, they pointed out that both women – Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann – had sex with Weinstein after the alleged attacks, and they continued to have friendly contact with him for years afterward.
Weinstein’s criminal cases aren’t over. He also faces charges of sexual assault and rape in separate incidents in Los Angeles. Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sexual activity related to the other women.
CNN’s Aaron Cooper, Lauren del Valle, Rob Frehse, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Holly Yan, Brian Vitagliano, Chloe Melas, Melanie Schuman, Jean Casarez, Eric Levenson and Lisa Respers France contributed to this report.