The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out about the cruelty of solitary confinement after learning former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was placed in protective custody last week for his own safety.
The former New England Patriots tight end was denied bail after being charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd in June.
The high-profile prisoner Hernandez was moved “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,” CBS Sports reported.
The ACLU is hoping the publicity surrounding the Hernandez case will raise awareness of the psychological dangers of “protective solitary confinement.”
“It is time to recognize that ‘protective custody’ is a misnomer for a destructive practice,” the ACLU statement said. “It does little to protect prisoners from the devastating psychological effects of isolation.”
Concerned about Hernandez’s placement in solitary confinement, the ACLU statement titled, “Aaron Hernandez is Now Locked Alone Inside a Room the Size of a Parking Spot,” read, in part:
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.
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.
Sadly, what’s happening to Hernandez is not a rarity in our criminal justice system. There are more than 80,000 prisoners in solitary confinement across the country. They remain isolated for weeks and sometimes years on end, often without the press attention Hernandez’s case has gotten.
The Patriots released Hernandez within 90 minutes of his arrest, and having been denied bail, he will remain in custody until his trial, CBS Sports said.