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 applauds Boulder Valley School District

A spokesperson for the ACLU of Colorado announced today that it welcomes a decision of the Boulder Valley School District (“BVSD”) to limit searches of students’ cell phone text messages, an issue the ACLU raised in a letter made public in October, 2007. In that letter, the ACLU asserted that non-consensual searches of text messages violate a Colorado criminal statute designed to protect the privacy of telephone and electronic communications.

New guidelines state that before searching text messages, BVSD administrators must not only satisfy the minimum federal constitutional standard for conducting a search, but must also obtain the consent of the student or parent. The only exception is an emergency in which there is an imminent threat to public safety.

“I commend the Boulder Valley School District for making a decision that protects students’ privacy and addresses the concerns raised in the ACLU’s letter,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Meetings with the school district’s attorneys and ACLU representatives have been cordial and very productive.”

The Colorado statute makes it a crime to read, copy, or record a telephone or electronic communication without the consent of the sender or receiver. The ACLU’s October letter asserted that administrators at Monarch High School in Louisville had been violating the statute by seizing students cell phones; reading the text messages; transcribing messages administrators regarded as incriminating; and placing some transcriptions in students’ permanent files.

Silverstein noted that the BVSD attorneys do not agree that the Colorado statute applies to the cell phone searches criticized in the ACLU’s letter. Nevertheless, he said, by ensuring that administrators will now obtain consent before conducting a search, the potential conflict with the statute is largely resolved.

Silverstein said that BVSD also will add a sentence to its “Student Rights and Responsibilities Guide” that says: “Except in cases of emergency, a cell phone or other electronic communication device will not be searched without the consent of either the student or parent.”

In addition, administrators will fill out a one-page pre-printed checklist when a cell phone is searched. “The checklist functions as a written reminder to administrators of the minimum standards that must be met before searching a student’s cell phone,” Silverstein said. “It also reminds administrators that they can consult with the BVSD’s legal counsel in close cases.”

“Students’ use of newer electronic devices pose a potential challenge for school administrators who must enforce school rules and ensure students’ safety while also respecting their right of privacy,” Silverstein said. “The new guidelines BVSD has adopted represent a substantial step toward reaching an appropriate balance. I have nothing but praise for BVSD’s willingness to discuss the ACLU’s concerns and to make these changes.”

In addition to Silverstein, ACLU attorneys who met with BVSD attorneys included Taylor Pendergrass, ACLU Staff Attorney, and ACLU Cooperating Attorney Michael Rollin. 

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