SHIRLEY (CBS) — In the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s suicide, one lawmaker is demanding changes to the state’s prison system.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge represents Shirley, and in it, the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center where the ex-NFL star was found hanging from a bed sheet Wednesday morning.
It was a surprise visit back in December, along with other members of the Senate’s judiciary committee, that he says gave him concerns about the facility.
The members toured the facility and talked with some inmates. Aaron Hernandez was an inmate there at the time, but Sen. Eldridge said he didn’t speak with him.
Eldridge said inmates had concerns about conditions, and especially were worried about a lack of access to mental health treatment–especially for inmates who are alone in single cells, as Hernandez was.
Watch: Inside The Prison
Suicide behind the walls of correctional facilities is a bigger problem in Massachusetts than in most other states.
According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Justice, there were 32 suicides per 100,000 inmates in the state between 2001 and 2014.
“Massachusetts has among the highest suicide rates for prisoners and correction officers,” Eldridge told reporters outside the prison Wednesday. “And while obviously none of us have any idea why Mr. Hernandez committed suicide, I really do think this moment underscores the need to reform and improve the conditions in prisons, especially those who are in solitary confinement.”
Rhode Island has the highest suicide rate of 45, followed by Utah and Montana. Massachusetts has the fourth-highest rate of inmate suicide in the nation.
WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager asked the senator whether or not he had concerns about whether Hernandez’s death was in fact a suicide.
“It’s possible that it might not be a suicide,” Eldridge said.
He said he plans to request an oversight hearing to look into Hernandez’s death, and that he has already filed legislation requesting a look at the suicide rate, which he says is already too high in Massachusetts–not only among inmates, but among corrections officers.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kendall Buhl reports