ALBANY — Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein, now one of New York's most notorious prison inmates after being sentenced for sexual assault, has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, according to officials connected to the state prison system
Weinstein, who turned 68 last Thursday, is being isolated at Wende Correctional Facility in Western New York, officials told CNHI Sunday.
He is one of two Wende inmates who have tested positive, the officials said.
Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault in a prosecution that attracted world-wide attention amid the #MeToo movement.
Officials familiar with his situation said it is believed Weinstein was positive for the virus when he entered the state prison system last Wednesday from Rikers Island, a New York City jail.
Weinstein was sent to Wende, where the prison system operates an intake center for new state inmates. Inmates are typically sent to other facilities from there after medical and security concerns are assessed.
Weinstein was accepted by the prison system last week following his sentencing at a Manhattan courtroom. During his trial, he had been alternating his time between Rikers Island and a New York City hospital, where he was treated for high blood pressure and chest pains.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA), said he could not comment on Weinstein's situation or elaborate on any inmate's health record due to privacy rules.
Powers acknowledged the union has urged state corrections officials to immediately suspend all "non-essential" transfers of inmates from one state facility to another as well as the transporting of local jail prisoners to the state prisons during the ongoing health emergency.
"There is no better breeding ground for this virus than a closed environment such as a correctional facility," said Powers.
The producer of "Shakespeare in Love," a film for which Weinstein was awarded an Oscar, is in prison for raping an actress in 2013 and performing oral sex on a production assistant in 2006.
The officials who said Weinstein has tested positive spoke on the condition of anonymity, noting they were not authorized by the corrections agency to publicly comment on the situation.
State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, a retired corrections officer, said he has been pushing for strict new limitations on the transportation of inmates for the past two weeks due to the heightened health concerns in the prisons. "These are measures that need to be implemented," he said, noting inmates should only be transported in emergency situations.
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the agency overseeing state facilities, declared last week it is suspending all visits to prison inmates to counter the spread of the virus through April 11.
In addition, the prison agency has moved to reduce density in offices, by instructing non-security and other civilian staff to remain home for two weeks.
Powers said several state corrections officers are among those who have tested positive and numerous officers throughout the system are being monitored after coming in contact with people believed to have been infected, he noted.
The corrections officers being monitored include 58 NYSCOPBA members in the Hudson Valley, including 28 assigned to the maximum security Green Haven Correctional Faciity, Powers said.
Ten of the prison agency's 29,000 employees have confirmed cases of COVID-19, state officials confirmed Those employees include corrections officers assigned to Green Haven, Shawangunk, Sing Sing, Downstate and Fishkill correctional facilities, along with parole officers from Westchester County and the Bronx, a civilian who works at Fishkill Correctional Facility and two civilian staffers in Albany.
State officials said they have imposed new restrictions on transportation of prisoners, including a suspension on the intake of incarcerated individuals from county facilities to the state prisons.
Throughout the prison system, posters with safety tips and information about the virus are now being displayed.
The agency has also stepped up monitoring of inmates recently accepted from local jails, officials said.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.