As former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez remains in protective custody for the alleged murder of Odin Lloyd, the American Civil Liberties Union has express concerns over his prison accommodations.
In a new blog post, the ACLU suggests that “protective custody”— supposedly enacted for Hernandez’s safety — is just another term for solitary confinement. “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 post reads.
The ACLU also expressed concern at the potential long-term effects of solitary confinement, noting that it is sometimes considered to be a form of torture. “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.”
If the Odin Lloyd murder investigation continues to advance at its current rate, the ACLU may have a legitimate gripe. Hernandez likely faces several months, if not a year, of jail time before his trial begins, Yahoo Sports reports. Judge Renee Dupuis has twice denied Hernandez’s bids for bail, citing the strength of the prosecution’s evidence and the 23-year-old’s status as a potential flight risk.
As such, Hernandez will spend an indeterminate period of time in a jail cell that the ACLU describes as being “the size of a parking spot,” Yahoo Sports reports. Although the protective custody is designed to guard Hernandez from the general prison population, the ACLU notes that prisoners who spend time in extreme isolation have an increased risk of additional criminal behavior.