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. 

ACLU and Boulder County Jail Reach Settlement in Post Card Case

Facing a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the ACLU National Prison Project, the Boulder County Jail has agreed to a settlement, ending a policy that restricted most inmates’ outgoing mail to post-cards only.

Prisoners at the jail – many of whom are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime – will once again be permitted to send letters in sealed envelopes to their children, family members, loved ones and friends. The settlement, reached on Friday, is detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the parties.

Faced with a similar lawsuit from the ACLU of Colorado, the El Paso County Jail ended its post card-only prisoner mail policy in December. El Paso and Boulder County adopted the policies in 2010 and the lawsuits followed soon afterwards.

“Incarcerated individuals will no longer be forced to avoid personal topics such as medical, financial or relationship issues simply because their words are in plain sight for anyone to read,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “They will no longer have to guard against communications that they do not wish their children to see. They now can communicate with art and drawings or seek the advice of their clergy without having to expose that to the world.”

The ACLU of Colorado’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of five individual prisoners who represent a class of current and future prisoners subject to the policy. Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel granted the lawsuit class-action status March 8.

The settlement agreement ending the policy calls for an official change within 21 days of the filing of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Specifically —

  • Inmates will now be allowed to write and send personal letters on paper provided by the jail and with envelopes supplied by the jail – without having to receive special permission to do so.
  • Postcards will be used by inmates only on a voluntary basis, if at all.
  • The jail must notify attorneys for the ACLU of Colorado if it plans any changes to the outgoing inmate mail policy anytime within the next two years.

The settlement agreement is expected to be approved by the Board of County Commissioners at its next meeting.

“Writing letters to people in the free world is critical for helping prisoners maintain ties to their families and communities and ensuring their successful reintegration upon release,” said David Fathi, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “Enacting policies that significantly restrict the First Amendment freedoms of all current and future pre-trial detainees and prisoners in the jail was both unwise and unconstitutional. We are pleased to see it end and trust that this will embolden others to challenge similar policies wherever they may crop up across the country.”

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