Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez can't watch football on TV for his own safety, the sheriff in charge of the prison said on Saturday.
"When somebody with any kind of fame comes in, there are already wise guys who try to improve their own stature by hurting him," Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told The Associated Press. "We don't want to have any problems."
Hernandez has been held without bail at the Bristol County House of Correction in North Dartmouth, Mass., since he was charged in June with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player. The Patriots released him on the day he was arrested.
Hodgson said this week that Hernandez won't be able to watch his former teammates play in the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos because he isn't allowed to watch TV at all. The sheriff said on Saturday that Hernandez is kept separated from the other inmates under "special management" because of his fame.
"My job is care and custody. First and foremost, we have to be concerned about the safety of the inmate and the officers," Hodgson said. "I can't put this guy in a vulnerable situation where there are people who would like to prove they're more important" by hurting Hernandez.
Hodgson said the decision to keep Hernandez separate was made when the former NFL star first arrived at the prison. He is only allowed outside of his cell three hours a day, and never at the same time as other inmates.
"I've spoken to him about it, and he understands it," Hodgson said. "I'm not going to tell you that he enjoys it all the time."
Hernandez is different from the other inmates in special management because he is still awaiting trial. Most of the others in the separate unit were in the general population before losing privileges due to bad behavior.
"Of course, we recognize that everyone's innocent until proven guilty," Hodgson said. "But also a judge doesn't feel like you're able to be in the community on bail. I don't make those decisions to send people to our institution, but when they get there, I have a responsibility to make sure they're safe, they're fed."
Unlike those who have lost their privileges, Hernandez is allowed access to the prison commissary, Hodgson said. But it wouldn't be safe to have a TV in the unit.
"He does get some privileges that the others don't because he is a pretrial detainee," Hodgson said. "There are times when he's asked for a TV. But we can't have a television in the unit he's housed in. That would be looked upon by the other individuals in the unit as a special privilege and create animosity."
Hodgson said the decision to separate Hernandez from the general population is reassessed periodically,
"He knows that I'm looking out for his welfare," the sheriff said. "It's not the ideal situation. It's jail.
"It's a delicate situation."