SHIRLEY, Mass. (AP) — The maximum security prison where Aaron Hernandez apparently hanged himself has seen its share of troubles since it opened nearly two decades ago, most famously the strangulation of a convicted pedophile priest.
The 27-year-old former NFL star was found by guards hanged with a bedsheet at about 3 a.m. Wednesday and was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later. He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.
The Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, built for $105 million in the central Massachusetts town of Shirley, was hailed as the most technologically advanced in the nation when it opened in 1998. It has more than 1,000 cells that were meant to ease overcrowding in the state’s prison system.
It is named for two former prisons workers — guard James Souza and instructor Alfred Baranowski — who were killed at a prison in Norfolk in 1972 during an aborted escape attempt by a convicted murderer.
John Geoghan’s Killing
Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal, was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy when he was killed in his Souza-Baranowski prison cell in August 2003 by another inmate who jammed the door closed so guards could not get in.
A commission appointed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney conducted a top-to-bottom review of the state’s prison system that called for improvements in the inmate classification system, disciplinary procedures and prison management.
Other Deaths and Violence
Several other inmates have taken their own lives at Souza-Baranowski over the years, but none of them was as famous as Hernandez. Most of those suicides were hangings using either sheets or T-shirts.
Earlier this year, about four dozen inmates went on a destructive rampage, smashing tables and other furniture, removing fire extinguishers from walls and destroying computers in the area where the officers normally would be stationed. Guards withdrew from the area and quelled the inmates with pepper spray. Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett said at the time that many inmates had armed themselves with makeshift weapons and were “getting ready for war.”
In another instance of inmate-on-inmate violence, in August 2014, a 72-year-old man convicted of murder who used a cane was beaten to death by two other prisoners after an argument.
Attacks on Prison Employees
Within a year of the prison’s opening, a man convicted of killing a Rhode Island corrections officer stabbed the prison’s superintendent with a sharpened piece of metal. The wound was superficial.
In May 2001, seven guards were injured when they were assaulted by inmates, and in June 2012 seven guards were injured in a confrontation with inmates.
A guard was seriously injured in November 2013 when he was stabbed in the neck by an inmate with a makeshift knife. The blade narrowly missed the guard’s spinal cord.
Prison Death Statistics
In the U.S., suicide is the No. 2 cause of death for state prisoners.
From 2001 to 2013, more than 2,500 state prison inmates killed themselves, according to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Suicides accounted for about 6 percent of state prison deaths in that period.
The vast majority of deaths in state prisons — about 9 in 10 — are the result of illness, according to the bureau.