Crooked ex-power broker Sheldon Silver is serving time at an upstate prison that some elderly inmates are comparing to a coronavirus death camp.
Silver, convicted on corruption charges for taking nearly $4 million in bribes when he was assembly speaker, arrived Wednesday to begin a 6-and-a-half-year sentence at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution, where a group of prisoners have complained for months about crowding and a lack of health protocols to guard against COVID-19.
Many of Otisville’s elderly inmates have pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible to the infection. In March, Attorney General Bill Barr prioritized home confinement for at-risk prisoners.
“These are people who are elderly with serious underlying conditions and it’s just mind-boggling that the prison is not adhering to the US attorney general’s directives,” said Neal Sher, a Manhattan lawyer who has been lobbying for the “compassionate release” of three elderly inmates. “The real threat is that this is a death sentence.”
Sher stepped up his lobbying efforts in May after Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer and Otisville inmate, was allowed to return home at the height of the pandemic. In July, the government ordered Cohen back to prison for disobeying the conditions of his home confinement.
Otisville Federal Correctional InstitutionAnthony DelMundo / MEGA
One prisoner who Sher wants released is Mendel Epstein, a 75-year-old New Jersey Orthodox rabbi who is obese and has high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and impaired kidney function.
“His heart health remains in precarious condition, necessitating multiple medications daily and rendering him incredibly susceptible to illness,” wrote Sher in a May letter to the Bureau of Prisons seen by The Post.
In 2015, Epstein was convicted along with two other Orthodox rabbis of the kidnapping and torture of Jewish men to force them to grant religious divorces or “gets.” His release date is in 2024, according to public records.
According to Epstein, inmates have been sealed in tiny cells during lockdowns with little access to fresh air and unable to call prison staff in case of an emergency.
Otisville has reported 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases — 28 inmates and 14 staff members — but no coronavirus-related deaths, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. One staff member is currently infected.
Rabbi Mendel EpsteinAP
Orange County, where the prison is located, has recorded 11,381 confirmed cases and 409 deaths, state statistics show.
The federal Bureau of Prisons told The Post it is “carefully monitoring the spread of COVID-19” in its prisons nationwide.
In May, the Legal Aid Society sued the Otisville lockup on behalf of 15 inmates, arguing that elderly prisoners with pre-existing conditions should be allowed to serve out their sentences at home.
“Packed in close quarters with other inmates and corrections staff, plaintiffs are often forced to share necessities with others,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Orange County State Supreme Court. “Despite the high-risk setting, they are deprived of basic forms of protection such as sufficient soap and hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, masks and gloves.”