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ACLU speaks out against solitary confinement for Aaron Hernandez

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Aaron Hernandez at his arraignment, where he was charged with first-degree murder. (USATSI)
When Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, and the judge subsequently denied him bail, the former Patriots tight end went from a sprawling 7,000-square-foot home to a 7-by-10-foot jail cell. And that's where he'll remain until his trial.

Hernandez has spent almost two weeks behind bars. Last week he was moved from the medical unit to his own cell, which contains a toilet, a bed, a desk and a sink -- but no cellmate and no face-to-face contact with other inmates. Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Hernandez is allowed out of his cell three hours a day: one hour for showering and phone calls, one hour in the common area and one hour in the yard.

“There is only one inmate out a time,” Hodgson said. “In each instance when he's out of his cell, there is no interaction with other inmates.”

And the reality of solitary confinement is what has the American Civil Liberties Union concerned:

"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."

The ACLU also speaks of the "debilitating psychological effects" of "extreme isolation" adding that "psychologists have said that the effects of prolonged solitary confinement can be irreversible, and an emerging international community has begun to condemn solitary confinement."

One reason jail officials have isolated Hernandez is because he is a high-profile inmate. Put another way: Hernandez has his own cell for his own protection from other inmates. That doesn't change the fact that prolonged solitary confinement can be accompanied by psychological effects, but Hernandez's attorneys were unsuccessful in convincing a judge that their client deserved bail. As a consequence, Hernandez, like countless others convicted of first-degree murder, will be locked up until his trial.

Hernandez has also enjoyed little public support in the wake of his arrest. In addition to the ACLU, former teammate Deion Branch and rapper Snoop Lion have come to his defense. Meanwhile, the Patriots dumped Hernandez 90 minutes after he was taken into custody, and team owner Bob Kraft said Monday that Hernandez "duped" the organization.

“If any member of the New England Patriots organization is close enough to a murder investigation to actually get arrested -- whether it be for obstruction of justice or the crime itself -- it is too close to an unthinkable act for that person to be part of this organization going forward,” Kraft said.


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