Covid Update: The State of New York Prisons, by Craig Rothfeld

Craig Rothfeld is a criminal justice advisor, advocate, and prison consultant who specializes in assisting those with New York State Department of Corrections, New York City Department of Corrections, and New York State Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS) issues. His most famous client, the former Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein,* is currently serving time in a New York State prison. Craig is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. – Jeff


Craig Rothfeld

My first step to becoming criminologist, criminal justice advisor, and consultant began when I was barred from the securities industry in 2012.  I am always careful to point out these were not “mistakes”, these were choices and decisions – which are far different than mistakes. 

In 2002, I joined my former financial services company, where I was a shareholder and in 2008 became CEO until the company shut down at the end of 2011.  A series of missteps, horrific choices, and bad decisions led me to a total of 18 months in various New York State correctional facilities. 

After my release, I coupled my 22-months defending myself and the 18-months of incarceration to become an expert on the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS).  With 3.5 years submerged in all things NYSDOCCS, it was a different sort of graduate school and diploma. 

I now devote my life to guiding clients and their families through time in the New York State prison system and beyond.


Since the serious outbreak of COVID-19 this past March, I have written 11 prior times to this article below on the COVID-19 and the NYSDOCCS.   

It has been a little over 2-months since I last wrote with an update on COVID-19 within, and pertaining to, the NYSDOCCS.  Based on some recent developments (which may be rather intuitive to all of you), I am nonetheless sharing the following information with, and for, you, your clients, and their families.

We currently have clients in ten (10) of the fifty-two (52) facilities so are getting real time reporting from inmates about what is truly going on.

As COVID starts to ramp up and explode inside several facilities, it’s the corrections officers and staff that are now the super spreaders making the inmates even more defenseless.  Further, it creates greater security risks (reduced staff to inmate ratio) and curtailing of movement by and for inmates. 


To date, the Governor has granted clemency to three (3) people.  We still do not have one successful NYS inmate released on Medical Parole that had/has more than 90-days left on their sentence.  The one Judge who ordered an inmate to be released was reversed in the appellate court.  And the only “early release” that has been going on is letting inmates out that are 90-days or under to their parole release date or conditional release date. 

With COVID running rampant again, particularly among NYSDOCCS Staff which creates serious security issues, there are conversations going on at both the facility level and at the central office to begin releasing inmates even sooner than when they hit the 90-day mark.  The obvious subset of inmates that would meet these criteria for potential earlier release (between 90 and 180 to 360 days) are non-violent inmates, elderly inmates, and inmates with serious medical conditions and pre-existing conditions for COVID-19.

Please feel free to reach out to us and discuss if you have clients that fit this criterion.


As of 3pm yesterday, Dec 8th, the NYSDOCCS temporarily suspended visitations to three (3) more facilities bringing the total back up to six (6) facilities.  The three that were suspended as of yesterday are:

  • Attica CF

  • Auburn CF

  • Cayuga CF

These are in addition to:

  • Elmira CF (Reception Facility)

  • Southport CF

  • Green CF

What this means practically, in addition to their being no visits, is there is NO transit into or out of the prisons except for medical emergencies or the need to place an inmate in a Solitary Housing Unit (SHU).  With Elmira being a reception facility, the lockdown there further backs up inmates being transferred from county jails / prisons that feed into Elmira.


  • Facility administration is working to reduce ALL DORMS to 25 people (they can hold 60).  Not all dorms are filled to capacity, but a reduction is underway.  Translation: at these medium security inmates will need to be relocated to other prisons that aren’t on full lock-down, have more capacity, or it’s simply passing the hot potato creating more risk in another facility.

DOWNSTATE CF (Reception Facility & Maximum-Security Facility)

  • A client there reports that the “Draft” has been shut down for at least two (2) weeks to be re-evaluated then.  For clients that are there for “reception” it obviously means they will remain their longer than the usual 6 to 8 weeks.


  • Staff shortages due to COVID-19 outbreak among COs and civilian workers are essentially curtailed the ASAT Program (Alcohol Substance Abuse Treatment). As a result, most group therapy sessions and programming has been cancelled. 


  • Has suspended all visits for inmates located in the RMU (Regional Medical Unit a/k/a prison hospital).  Facility does not want to risk outsiders bringing COVID into the facility and passing it along RMU inmates who then bring it back to the RMU and the dominoes fall from there. 

ULSTER CF (Senior Living Dorms)

  • Continued conversation swirls about how to best protect the inmates in the two senior living dorms who are all over 60-years old.

  • Legislation continues to sit on the Governors that could expedite the release of seniors in prison. 

Sadly, we expect this to continue and get worse over the next few months as the NYSDOCCS still hasn’t tested ~ ½ its population and the statistics they report are woefully inaccurate.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to us regarding any of this information or other related questions to the NYC or NYS Dept. of Corrections.

Craig Rothfeld is s a criminal justice adviser and advocate (M.A. Criminal Justice (Exp. Apr ’22) and CERT. Criminal Sentencing & Sentencing Advocacy (Exp. Apr ‘21) at Inside Outside Ltd., the company he co-founded.  He advises individuals, their families, and their legal defense teams on pre -and post- criminal sentencing mitigation strategies and incarceration.  For more information on Inside Outside Ltd. please visit  You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at and Twitter @craig_rothfeld.



NY Times: Harvey Weinstein Adds ‘Prison Consultant’ to His Entourage:

NBC New York: How a Prison Consultant Is Preparing Harvey Weinstein for Lockup:

*Craig has confirmed that he has Harvey Weinstein’s permission to use his name to promote Inside Outside Ltd.