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 Asks Colorado High Court to Find Boulder No-Camping Ordinance Unconstitutional


In legal papers filed today, the ACLU of Colorado asked the Colorado Supreme Court to review Boulder’s controversial “no camping” ordinance, which targets homeless residents who are forced to sleep outside at night.

“When homeless persons are turned away from shelters, they have no choice but to sleep outdoors,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Boulder’s ordinance unfairly and unconstitutionally turns them into criminals for this involuntary act. We are asking the court to overturn our client’s conviction.”

Boulder’s no-camping ordinance prohibits sleeping outside with “shelter,” which Boulder defines to include any protection from the elements other than clothing. Under the ordinance, merely sleeping outside at night is not “camping,” but sleeping while using a blanket or sleeping bag is a crime.

The ACLU’s client, David Madison, a person who is homeless, was charged with violating the camping ordinance in November, 2009, when he slept outside in a sleeping bag during a night when the temperature dropped to 11 degrees. Mr. Madison had sought refuge at the homeless shelter, but there was no space for him. He was found guilty of “camping” in Boulder Municipal Court, based on the court’s ruling that the sleeping bag constituted “shelter” and therefore violated the camping ban.

“Mr. Madison’s case highlights both the absurdity and the cruelty of Boulder’s ordinance,” Silverstein continued. “Because the frost-covered sleeping bag was deemed to be ‘shelter,” the ordinance makes our client a criminal. If our client had just slept in his clothes, he might have gotten frostbite or hypothermia, but he would have been found not guilty.”

On April 20, the Boulder District Court rejected the ACLU’s appeal of Mr. Madison’s conviction, prompting today’s petition for review in the state supreme court. “We have asked the Supreme Court to review this case, not only because of Mr. Madison’s conviction is so obviously unjust,” said Mr. Silverstein, “but also because it is still an open question in Colorado whether or not cities such as Boulder, in what appears to be nothing more than an effort to rid the city of its homeless population, are permitted to criminalize activities that the homeless have no choice but to do, such as sleeping outdoors. We hope that the Supreme Court will say with clarity that homelessness is not a crime.”

If the Supreme Court accepts the case, the ACLU, through cooperating attorneys Mark Walta and David Harrison, will argue that persons who are forced to sleep outdoors have a right to protect themselves from the elements when doing so causes no one any harm. Further, Mr. Walta explains: “Mr. Madison’s conviction constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes one of the essential attributes of homelessness – that the basic activities of daily life, including sleeping, often must be conducted outdoors. The ordinance puts individuals who are homeless in an impossible position – they can either break the law by harmlessly satisfying their need for warmth and shelter against the elements, or they can risk their own health and safety by forsaking these basic needs in order to comply with the letter of the law. This is not justice.”

In the past five years, Boulder has energetically enforced the “no camping” ordinance against the city’s homeless population, prosecuting almost 2000 cases. Yet, Boulder’s primary homeless shelter accommodates only 160 persons, less than a quarter of the city’s estimated homeless population. In 2009, advocates for the homeless, including the Boulder County Chapter of the ACLU, urged the City Council to stop enforcing the ordinance. In January 2010, the council instructed its staff to draft an ordinance declaring a moratorium. A month later the council reversed course and continued enforcing the controversial camping ban.

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