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.


Stephen Meswarb, Interim Executive Director (He/Him/His)

StephenColorado native Stephen Meswarb returned home to work for the ACLU of Colorado in June 2010, bringing with him nearly 20 years of non-profit fundraising experience, including more than eight years working for the national ACLU. He spent three years managing the ACLU’s $335 million Leading Freedom Forward campaign, the largest campaign on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties in the country’s history. He is now responsible for managing all aspects of operations, finance and administration.

Denise Maes, Public Policy Director (She/Her/Hers)


Denise Maes is the Public Policy Director of the ACLU of Colorado. In that role, she oversees all legislative work that effects civil liberties at the State and local level. She is the primary person overseeing all legislative initiatives at the state Capitol during the legislative session. Denise also sits on various municipal boards and commissions that review police and jail-related matters. She is a frequent panelist on civil liberties-related matters.

Before joining the ACLU, Denise was Director of Operations for Vice President Joe Biden. In that role, she managed, the Vice President’s budget, travel, and personnel. She also served as General Counsel for the Office of Administration under President Barack Obama, where she managed White House contracts and personnel issues.

Vanessa Michel, Director of Communications (She/Her/Hers)

Vanessa Michel joined the ACLU of Colorado in April 2017. She currently serves on the Womxn’s March Denver Board of Directors and previously worked as the Special Projects Manager at Artforum International Magazine in New York. Vanessa is a first-generation American, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and Literature from the University of North Texas, and was a 2003 Yale University Resident Fellow. Her volunteer experience includes the San Diego Council on Adult Literacy, Comida Para Vida, and Meow Wolf art collective in Santa Fe. She has exhibited her artwork at Columbia University and galleries and museums across the country.  She currently lives in Denver with her husband and their three dogs.

Delana Mullins Maynes, Director of Campaigns (She/Her/Hers)

Delana Maynes is the Director of Campaigns for the ACLU of Colorado. Before joining the ACLU, Delana was the co-founder of a community group that led the fight to stop a voucher program in Douglas County schools. Delana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Denver. She lives in Highlands Ranch with her husband, two wonderful children, and a crazy dog.

 Rachel Pryor-Lease, Director of Philanthropy (She/Her/Hers)

RachelRachel Pryor-Lease is the Director of Philanthropy for the ACLU. She is responsible for supporting all fundraising efforts and organizing the annual Whitehead dinner. Prior to joining the Colorado office, she has worked for the ACLU of Washington, the LGBT Community Center of New York, and Nativity House, a daytime, drop-in homeless shelter in Tacoma, WA. She also had a second career as an NYC pastry chef. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She grew up in Colorado but has lived on both the West and East coasts and is thrilled to be back home. She married her wife, Leah, in 2010 in Massachusetts, and they currently live in Denver with their twins Ari and Asher and their dog, Bubba.

Mark Silverstein, Legal Director (He/Him/His)

MarkMark Silverstein is a 1989 graduate of the Illinois College of Law. He served for a year as law clerk to Judge James Moran of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and another year as law clerk for Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1991, he began working as a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California in Los Angeles. Since 1996, he has worked as Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado, where he oversees the ACLU’s litigation in a wide variety of cases raising issues of civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Julian Camera, Field Organizer (He/Him/His)

Julian Camera is the Field Organizer for the ACLU of Colorado. In this position, he works with the Director of Campaigns and the Campaign Coordinators on a variety of state-wide and national campaigns with an intent to build strength in community and gather around common Civil Rights issues/goals. Julian received a degree in Communications and Anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and was a part of the Denver Foundations Non-profit Internship Program where he worked for Denver Urban Gardens-a non-profit working to ensure that every community has access to good-quality, fresh food. Julian has organized and advocated for LGBTQ+ people with a focus on transgender rights but his passion for advocacy goes beyond one issue, and strongly believes that we are as good as our most marginalized community and therefore we must empower all communities to live their best lives.

Jason Chavez, Major Gifts Officer (He/Him/His)

Jason Chavez is the Major Gifts Officer for the ACLU of Colorado. Before joining the ACLU team, Jason worked as Director of Artist, Venue & Festival Relations for the Love Hope Strength Foundation coordinating bone marrow donor registration drives in an attempt to identify life-saving marrow donors for blood disorder patients in need of transplants. Prior to this role, he booked and promoted concerts at music venues along Colorado’s Front Range as Talent Buyer for Soda Jerk Presents – Colorado’s leading independent concert promoter. In 2010, Jason received a Bachelor of Science in Music with emphasis in business from the University of Colorado at Denver, where he moved in 2006 from the Pacific Northwest. Outside of work, you’ll find him backpacking, snowboarding, rock climbing or playing bass with his band at a gig or rehearsal.

Pablo de la Rosa Santiago, Communications Associate (They/Them/Elle)

Pablo de la Rosa Santiago (pronouns they/them/theirs) joined the ACLU of Colorado in March of 2020 after graduating from CU Boulder. They believe in the transformative power of design in creating equitable societies. Prior to this role, they worked as an organizer for the Brazen Project, educating peers about reproductive rights and crisis pregnancy centers. They also created motion graphics and edited video for a variety of Colorado-based start-ups. Outside of the office, they continue a fine art practice that incorporates photography, sculpture, and installation work

Patricia DeLuna-Zickefoose, Accountant (She/Her/Hers)

TrishPatricia is the staff accountant for the ACLU since 2006. She has had her own accounting practice since 1984 and other non-profit clients include the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, The Denver Justice Council, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and Wedontwaste, as well as for-profit corporations, partnerships and individuals. A California Bay Area native, she has resided in Colorado since 1983.

Helen Griffiths, Public Policy Associate (She/Her/Hers)

Helen had a peripatetic childhood, attending seven schools in six countries on four continents. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Colorado College where she received the Fred Sondermann Award for excellence in political science as well as four grants to fund independent research on immigration and political ideology in France and the US. Her work experience spans academics, international affairs and American politics. At the American Embassy in Mozambique, Helen interned in Public Affairs and in Public Health Communications, as well as for Congresswoman DeGette and Senator Bennet in Denver. Helen was a research assistant at the Marshall Center for European Security Studies in Germany and the Political Science department at Colorado College, where she was also a staff writer for The Catalyst newspaper. Helen founded the Democratic Dialogue Project, which fosters open dialogue between the Air Force Academy and Colorado College. In her free time, she loves to read, write fiction, travel, and explore beautiful Colorado.

Arielle Herzberg, Staff Attorney (She/Her/Hers)

Arielle Herzberg became a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Colorado in April 2020, after serving as a yearlong legal fellow.  Prior to working at the ACLU of Colorado, Arielle was an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York City, where she worked on complex commercial litigation, class actions, as well as government and internal investigations.  Prior to working at Simpson Thacher, Arielle served as a law clerk to Judge Stanley Chesler in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.  Arielle graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she served as a client advocate and certified legal intern helping indigent individuals with child custody, child support, and protection from abuse cases.  Arielle is excited and proud to be part of the ACLU of Colorado team.

Lizzy Hinkley, Reproductive Rights Policy Counsel (She/Her/Hers)

Lizzy joined the ACLU of Colorado in December 2017. Lizzy previously practiced as a legal services attorney years, representing indigent clients with legal issues involving eviction, foreclosure, consumer protection, and immigration. She clerked for Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg of the D.C. Superior Court after graduating from University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. In law school, Lizzy served as a Dillard Fellow for the Legal Research and Writing program, was a Public Interest Law Association grant recipient, and interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Lizzy graduated summa cum laude from the George Washington University with a B.A. in International Affairs and worked as a paralegal at the Department of Justice for two years prior to law school. She holds a certificate in investigative research and is a lover of all things repro rights.

Deanna Hirsch, Media Strategist (She/Her/Hers)

Deanna Hirsch is the Media Strategist at the ACLU of Colorado. Deanna graduated from with a Master of Science degree from Columbia Journalism School and was awarded honors in reporting, media law and the master’s project. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Metropolitan State University of Denver where she graduated Cum Laude and was the recipient of The Denver Foundation Colorado Press Association Scholarship. Prior to joining the organization, Deanna was the editor-in-chief of Metrosphere magazine and co-host and producer of Daytime Duo. She has reported and published articles for Evergreen Newspapers; Canyon Courier, Columbine Courier and High Timber Times, Recovering Yogi, and The Uptowner. Deanna also wrote and helped publish, Not Who I Pictured, a collection of non-fiction short stories that became a number one new release on Amazon. A New York native, she now lives in Denver with her husband, daughter and Yorkie

Jessica Howard, Racial Justice Campaign Coordinator (She/Her/Hers)

Jessica Howard is the Racial Justice Campaign Coordinator for the ACLU of Colorado. Prior to her new role, she worked as the affiliate’s paralegal for six years. In her role as Campaign Coordinator, she oversees the development and implementation of public education programs, including “Know Your Rights” training workshops.  In addition to her work at the ACLU,  she is a passionate disability rights advocate, having served on the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, Denver Public School’s Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC), and Disability Law Colorado’s Protection and Advocacy System for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI). Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado and a Paralegal Certificate from the Community College of Aurora. Her other interests include photography, hiking, and trying new foods.

Sara R. Neel, Senior Staff Attorney (She/Her/Hers)


Sara Neel was hired as Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Colorado in October 2011. A 2005 graduate of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Sara began her legal career at KILLMER, LANE & NEWMAN, LLP. At the firm, she represented clients in civil rights cases involving constitutional law, federal civil rights statutes and Colorado State law. The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association twice recognized Sara’s work at the firm, including as a co-recipient of the Access to Justice Award for her work defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sara is a former President of the Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and a former Vice-Chair of the Civil Rights Committee of the Colorado Bar Association. Sara enjoys spending time in the mountains skiing and rock climbing with her husband and son.

Caryn Osterman, Director of Operations (She/Her/Hers)

Caryn joined the ACLU of Colorado Development team in January of 2007. As Operations Manager since April 2010, she oversees the Legal Intake Department, coordinates the Education, Volunteer, IT and Human Resources programs and manages overall office operations. Caryn received her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts and an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Colorado, Denver. A New York native, Caryn enjoys working on a variety of projects that support the ACLU’s mission and is honored to have the opportunity to work with the many wonderful and committed individuals who volunteer and support the organization. Caryn is a Child Care Health Consultant and the owner of CO2 Designs.

Kassandra Rendón-Morales, Reproductive Rights Campaign Coordinator (She/Her/Ella)

Kassandra Rendón-Morale is the Reproductive Rights Campaign Coordinator. She fights every day to make sure Coloradan’s reproductive freedom is protected. Before joining ACLU of Colorado, she worked with COLOR, a reproductive justice Latina led, Latina serving grassroots organization. Her worked revolved around teaching comprehensive sexual education to ages 9-21, organized and managed year-round issue-based campaigns in the Westminster area and worked directly with Latina youth around leadership development and advocacy. She holds a bachelor’s in Women’s Studies and Spanish from the University of Nevada, Reno. She is passionate about mobilizing young people and disrupting the school to prison pipeline. She truly believes young queer womxn of color are the future and believes providing them with tools and access will aid to their success. When she’s not working, Kassandra loves to cook, host and spend time with people that make her feel whole. She loves listening to music, reading about conspiracy theories and learning. 

Jennifer Samano, Campaign Coordinator (She/Her/Hers)

Jennifer Samano is a community organizer and civil rights advocate living in Denver, CO. Prior to working with the ACLU, Jennifer worked as a campaign organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to develop an accountability campaign, which worked in coalition with community partners to mobilize Coloradans in defense of the Affordable Care Act. She also organized for the 2016 election cycle in the Sixth Congressional District. Jennifer previously worked as an intern with SEIU Local 105, where she helped in the fight for fair wages. She is relentlessly dedicated to Coloradans’ voting rights, women’s access to health care, and independent journalism.

Susie Simmons, Development Coordinator (She/Her/Hers)

Susie Simmons is the Development Coordinator at the ACLU of Colorado. In this role, she manages the Development Program’s administrative operations and supports the Major Gifts Officers. Before joining the ACLU of Colorado, she worked as a legal advocate assisting people who have experienced domestic violence in protection order and domestic relations cases. She also spent time at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains as a Public Affairs Intern where she provided community outreach across her hometown of Denver. At Colorado College, Susie studied Feminist and Gender Studies. There, she interrogated the impetuses for and reproduction of power and dominance that engender identity-based oppression along race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, and religion markers. When she’s not at work, Susie enjoys spending time outside, hanging out with friends and family, and attempting crossword puzzles.

Ana Temu, Immigration Campaign Coordinator (She/Her/Ella)

Ana Temu is a community activist, political strategist, and coffee maniac. She is a first-generation citizen with roots from Sinaloa, Mexico and Guastetoya, Guatemala. Ana was raised knowing the hardship immigrants face in this country, which is why she started becoming politically engaged through immigrant rights activism helping pass countless pro-immigrant bills in the state, founded a scholarship fund for undocumented students in Boulder County, and worked on immigration reform at the national level with United We Dream. Ana knows that one of the best ways to change policy is to have someone in office that will champion the issues of marginalized folks, so shifted her unapologetic activism to campaigning–running successful campaigns at all levels including gubernatorial and presidential. On her spare time, Ana helps to train others to run for office, support and advise people starting their campaigns. Ana and her family still live in fear of being separated by the harsh immigrant sentiments of today, so she passionately works to ensure immigrants have a community to thrive in through policy and coalition work.

Rebecca T. Wallace, Senior Staff Attorney & Senior Policy Counsel (She/Her/Hers)

RebeccaRebecca T. Wallace was hired as staff attorney at the ACLU of Colorado in August 2010. Rebecca had previously served on the organization’s Board of Directors and was a member of the Legal Panel. Prior to accepting her position at the ACLU, Rebecca was an attorney at the civil rights law firm of KILLMER, LANE & NEWMAN, LLP, where she devoted her practice to vindicating the rights of the underdog. Rebecca’s work at the firm was twice recognized by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, most recently as co-recipient of the Case of the Year Award for Hall v. Zavaras, holding a prison guard and the Colorado Department of Corrections responsible for the sexual assault of a female prisoner. In September 2010, LAW WEEK recognized Rebecca as one of Colorado’s Up and Coming Lawyers.