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 Denver Civil Rights Attorneys File Class Action Lawsuit in Federal Court Against Weld County Sheriff

The Lawsuit Seeks an Emergency Order to Protect High-risk People in Jail From COVID-19

April 8, 2020,

DENVER – A team of ACLU and civil rights attorneys filed a class action lawsuit last night in federal court, seeking an emergency order to compel Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams to comply with COVID-19 public health guidelines – including physical distancing – for all high-risk people being held in the Weld County Jail.

“We have written to Sheriff Reams; we have written to the Chief Judge in Weld County; and we have petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “But the recipients of these pleas did not respond with the actions that were urgently required to prevent the calamity now unfolding in the Weld County Jail — an outbreak with multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19. We are now asking the federal court to order the desperately needed protective measures to save lives.”

According to the lawsuit, the Weld County Sheriff failed to take adequate measures to protect people in jail, correctional staff and the public from COVID-19, resulting in a substantial outbreak in the Weld County Jail. Weld County itself is a hot spot for the virus, with the fourth highest number of infections in the state and the highest death rate of Colorado counties. To comply with public health guidelines, the Sheriff must ensure that people who are incarcerated can maintain at least six-feet of distance at all times. Weld is the sixth most populous jail in Colorado and currently houses 574 people, many of whom are at high risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 due to age or underlying health conditions. Adding to the cruelty of the circumstances, 70% of people held in the Weld jail are pretrial detainees, meaning they have not been convicted of a crime. They are locked up only because they cannot afford to pay their bond.

“While no one is safe from transmission of the virus, jails, by their very nature, are especially prone to being epicenters of disease,” explained attorney Andrew McNulty, of Killmer, Lane and Newman. “The Weld County Jail has willfully turned a blind eye to public health guidelines and as a result has put incarcerated people, correctional staff and the public at grave risk.”

On March 25, Governor Polis took executive action aimed at lowering jail populations, stating that, “Reducing the numbers of those arrested or incarcerated is vital to our efforts to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.” On March 26, ACLU lawyers wrote to all Colorado sheriffs, including Sheriff Reams, detailing every sheriff’s societal and constitutional obligation to reduce jail populations immediately so as to allow physical distancing between and among people held in jail and staff. On April 3, criminal defense attorneys and advocacy groups filed two emergency petitions asking the state Supreme Court to issue a directive for lower courts to do their part to safely reduce the number of people incarcerated during this crisis. Those petitions were denied, leaving decisions about who will live or die in jails from COVID-19 up to individual sheriffs, judges and district attorneys.

“This lawsuit is necessary in part because of a failure of state-wide judicial leadership,” attorney David Maxted said. “Without statewide leadership, others like Sheriff Reams will continue to ignore science and data, and thereby endanger the public as a whole. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire through the Weld County Jail, and only action by this court can change the deadly course of events unfolding there.”

The legal team filing the class action includes ACLU staff attorneys, Killmer Lane and Newman, LLP, David Maxted of Maxted Law LLC, Jamie Hubbard, of Stimson Stancil LaBranche Hubbard LLC, and ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Dan Williams and Lauren Groth.

For a list of resources and recent actions by ACLU of Colorado and others to stop the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons go to:



The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.


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