Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

2018 Legislative Scorecard

A Note from Public Policy Director Denise Maes

Colorado’s legislative session is 120 days and a great deal happens in these mere four months that affect many Coloradans. For example, in the 2018 session, transportation and education saw unprecedented gains in funding. The legislature infused $645 million into multi-modal transportation and infrastructure and increased per pupil funding by $469 per student.

Civil liberties legislation rarely gets much attention. The one exception this year was the reauthorization of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which protects all Coloradans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces. The division has been under attack stemming primarily from its role in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Thanks to immense public response, the commission was reauthorized this year in relatively good form, despite efforts to defund it or severely weaken its enforcement power.

In legislative sessions past, I have proudly reported unanimous victories on the legislation we proactively championed. I was told that losses would eventually come. In 2018, they did. The losses weigh heavily not simply because loss is always hard, but because these legislative effortshad they become lawwould have brought relief to many Coloradans.

We were unsuccessful in our attempt to implement a statewide court reminder program. Such a program would greatly reduce the number of failure to appear warrants, and therefore, the number of people in our county jails. We also attempted to bring greater transparency to police internal affairs’ files, to no avail. Our efforts to stop the practice of revoking an individual’s driver’s license for their failure to pay a traffic-related fee was also rejected.

Our gains, however, are not insignificant. We championed a bill sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Susan Lontine that will bring independent and robust public defenders to all Colorado municipal courts. Incarcerating kids for missing school is a harsh punishment. Thanks to Sen. Chris Holbert and Rep. Pete Lee, this practice is now limited.

We also championed a bill expanding voting rights in Colorado by ensuring that all eligible voters in county jails are able to vote. Ultimately, the Secretary of State acknowledged that legislation was not necessary and agreed to implement rules facilitating in-jail voting. This practice will be fully implemented in time for the 2018 general election.

Through our work with juvenile justice advocates, we learned that the Department of Youth Services was not providing bras to teenage girls in their care. We brought this matter to the attention of Rep. Leslie Herod, and she pushed the Department to fund bras for these teenagers. The small price tag of $40,000 matters a great deal to our girls in youth services.

We’re gearing up now for the 2019 session, where much of what we can accomplish will be directly impacted by the results of the statewide elections in November. Be sure to vote!

Click here to view the 2018 Legislative Scorecard.

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