Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

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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