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 Announces Settlement of Strip-search Lawsuit


March 1, 2000

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) announced today a settlement agreement that resolves a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Job Corps participants who alleged that they were subjected to a group strip search at the federal agency's facility in Collbran, Colorado, a residential educational and vocational training program for disadvantaged youth.


Under the agreement, the United States Department of Labor will ban such group strip searches — and all other searches of the person that are not based on individualized suspicion — at Job Corps centers throughout the country. In addition, the government will pay monetary compensation to the two individual plaintiffs.


The lawsuit alleged that 25 to 30 young persons were forced to submit to the strip search in March, 1997, when they returned to the Job Corps center after spending a weekend outside of the live-in facility. It asserted that Job Corps officials acted on nothing more than a "rumor" that one of the program participants might be bringing drugs into the facility. No drugs were ever found.


The new policy prohibits any searches of an entire group when the information in the possession of Job Corps officials implicates only some members of the group.


"The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches," said Greg Whitehair, of Kutak Rock, who led the legal team for the ACLU. "It is unreasonable to search an entire group of young people simply because government officials suspect that one of them might possess marijuana. It is especially unreasonable to subject them to the humiliation of a strip search."


The ACLU initially filed the lawsuit on behalf of Alisha McKay, who was seventeen years old and five months pregnant when the search occurred. She had no criminal record and no history of involvement with illegal drugs. Another plaintiff, Carlos Trujillo, later joined the lawsuit.


When the bus arrived at the Job Corps Center, the suit alleged, Job Corps officials divided the males and females into separate groups and strip-searched them two at a time. Ms. McKay and another young woman were ordered to stand side-by-side in a bathroom, remove their clothes, spread their legs apart, and squat as a Job Corps official inspected their genitals. Ms. McKay allegedly was told that if she did not submit to the body cavity inspection, she would be terminated from the Job Corps program "on the spot."


The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Trujillo was ordered into a bathroom and forced to drop his pants, bend over, and spread his buttocks for a visual inspection. "No young people should ever have to go through what our clients endured," said Susan Brienza of Patton Boggs, who also served as an ACLU cooperating attorney on the case. "This agreement will protect Job Corps participants in every Job Corps facility in the country."


"Vague information suggesting that some unspecified individual in a group might have drugs does not authorize the government to conduct a blanket search of an entire busload of passengers," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "And it certainly cannot justify subjecting two dozen teenagers to the senseless degrading ordeal of a strip search. We are pleased that the federal government has agreed to adopt a policy that specifically addresses and prohibits such searches."


Silverstein explained that the ACLU became involved a few days after the search took place, when the organization received a handwritten letter from Alisha and her mother, LaNita McKay. "They said that they believed the strip search was wrong," Silverstein said, "and they hoped they could do something to make sure that this would never happen again to another Job Corps participant. With this agreement, they have made that hope a reality."

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