It may not be easy to find anyone sympathetic towards Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end charged in the murder of Odin Lloyd and possibly implicated in several other violent crimes, but you can put the American Civil Liberties Union on that rather short list. No, the ACLU isn’t condoning his alleged actions by any means, but it is taking a stand against the way he’s been detained by the state of Massachusetts.
Hernandez has been placed in “protective custody,” more commonly known as solitary confinement, which means the former pro-bowler spends 20 hours a day alone in a small cell with minimal human interaction. It’s a big step down from his sprawling Attleboro home, but one that the ACLU says is incommensurate to his legal status and potentially devastating to his psyche.
“Regardless of what you think of Aaron Hernandez, it's important to take a minute and remember he has not yet been convicted — in the eyes of the law, he is still innocent until proven guilty. But, while awaiting trial, he has been locked alone in a small room with little or no human interaction for over 20 hours a day,” wrote ACLU staffers Hillary Krase and Sarah Solon for the organization’s Blog of Rights.
They continued, “Extreme isolation can have debilitating psychological effects. Prisoners locked alone in solitary confinement may become depressed or begin hallucinating. Psychologists have said that the effects of prolonged solitary confinement can be irreversible, and an emerging international community has begun to condemn solitary confinement. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has said that solitary confinement can amount to torture, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment found that solitary confinement conditions can amount to “inhuman and degrading treatment.”
However, Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, the man overseeing Hernandez’s detention, told TMZ that his famous inmate was put in protective custody for his own well being and seems to be doing fine.
"Having just met with him earlier again after his evaluation, and for a man who has gone from 7,000-square-feet to a 10x7 cell, he is doing very well and seems to be taking the situation great,” he said. “He is very respectful and calm."