What It's Like Behind Bars for Aaron Hernandez

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Switching from the lavish lifestyle of a well-paid NFL player to the hard-line existence of a Massachusetts prisoner has been a surprisingly easy transition for accused murderer Aaron Hernandez, because he has Mitch Albom to help. But life back in the streets of Bristol, Conn., is already getting dangerous for one of the witnesses who allegedly snitched on the former tight end. 

Hernandez is being held without bail in a 7-foot-by-10-foot cell in the Bristol County House of Correction for allegedly murdering his friend Odin Lloyd. And by all accounts he's handling life behind bars with the same calm, collected behavior he displayed during his court appearance, according to an investigation from The Boston Globe's Stan Grossfield. "He was very polite and very respectful. He didn’t seem nervous, he seemed very comfortable," Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said of the first time he spoke with Hernandez. 

Hernandez spends most of his time locked up in his "special management unit," separate from the other prisoners. (They fear he may be attacked by an inmate trying to prove himself in the yard.) But the former football player is getting along OK, eating all his meals and exercising when he can. He's keeping his cell tidy and impressing the guards, too. "His cell is in perfect decorum," Hodgson told the Globe. "He keeps a very neat cell." Some of the life conditions behind bars are better than others, though. The guards heard the tight end was a reader and brought him one of the staples of American airport prose. "We sent him down a copy of Tuesdays With Morrie. I recommended he read it," Hodgson said. Having to read Albom is pretty bad, but life definitely could be worse. 

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But for Carlos Ortiz, the witness who allegedly told authorities Hernandez was the killer, life back on Davis Drive may never be the same. People who live in the Bristol neighborhood that used to be Ortiz's adopted home before his arrest aren't excited about his possible return. Turning on Hernandez is tantamount to turning on them and, from the sound of it, Ortiz's life would be in danger if he were to go back. "He can come back here," Ortiz's cousin Jose Torres, told USA Today, "but if you come back to the streets where everybody thinks you're hard but you've been snitching..." Although he did not elaborate on the consequences, the message was clear enough: snitches get stitches, and Ortiz squawked like a canary. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.