Aaron Hernandez has been moved into solitary confinement ... away from the general population ... because officials believe he could be a prize for blood-thirsty, fame-hungry inmates, TMZ has learned.
TMZ spoke with Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson who tells us ... Aaron has been moved from the medical ward at Bristol County Jail to a "Class 2 Unit" -- where he is isolated from the general population.
Hodgson explains, "The reason for this move is simply to protect him. We wouldn't want some inmate trying to get any notoriety by attempting to harm Aaron Hernandez."
In his Class 2 unit, Hernandez is allowed 3 hours outside of his cell per day. Hodgson says, "He can have access to the phone, yard for fresh air, and the common room."
Hodgson says there are no TVs inside the common room or inside Aaron's cell.
We're told Aaron will stay in this unit for at least a week -- and then officials reevaluate the situation and decide if they want to move him to a different unit.
As for visitors, officials tell us Aaron can choose five people to put on a visitor list.
Hodgson adds, "Having just met with him earlier again after his evaluation, and for a man who has gone from 7,000-square-feet to a 10x7 cell, he is doing very well and seems to be taking the situation great. He is very respectful and calm. Also to this point he has had no special requests."