Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.


ACLU files class action suit to restore right to vote for Colorado parolees

November 17, 2005

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Colorado announced today that it has filed a class action lawsuit challenging a Colorado statute that forbids persons on parole from voting or registering to vote.

“More than 6000 persons on parole are illegally denied the right to vote by a Colorado statute that the state legislature enacted in the early 1990s,” said Norman Mueller, an ACLU volunteer attorney who is litigating the case for the ACLU. “We are asking the court to declare that this statute violates rights that are guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution.”

According to the ACLU, the Colorado Constitution provides that offenders lose their right to vote only during the time they are incarcerated in prison. Their right to vote is restored automatically when they complete their sentence and are released on parole, Mueller said.

“The Colorado Supreme Court has said in several cases that when prisoners are released on parole, they have completed their term of imprisonment,” Mueller explained. “Because they have completed their prison term, the Colorado Constitution automatically restores their right to vote. But the statute passed by the legislature, and rules adopted by the Secretary of State, illegally deprive parolees in Colorado of their right to vote.”

Nationwide, as many as five million Americans are barred from voting by a variety of state laws that forbid convicted felons from voting for some period of time. In ten states, some felonies permanently disfranchise ex-offenders, and in three states, felons are effectively barred from voting for the rest of their lives. Fourteen states restore the right to vote when an offender leaves prison, and four others restore the right to vote after parole is completed. A number of states also forbid offenders from voting if they receive probation rather than a prison sentence. In contrast, two states permit prisoners to vote even while they are serving their prison sentences.

“There is a growing movement to reform many of the harsh state laws that disenfranchise offenders because of a past felony conviction,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “These laws are particularly damaging to the voting strength of communities of color. Voters and public officials are questioning whether these harsh penalties are consistent with our country’s commitment to equality, to democracy, and to the goals of rehabilitation and reintegration into society. In Colorado, the drafters of the state constitution addressed these questions. They decided that civil rights should be restored automatically when a prison sentence is completed. The lawsuit we filed today seeks to fulfill the original intent of the state constitution.”

The lead plaintiff and class representative in the case filed today is Pastor Michael Danielson, who became an ordained minister while in prison and currently directs a prison ministry, the Church of the Remnant Ministry, while on parole. The ACLU’s clients also include two organizations that are suing on behalf of their parolee members: the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) and Colorado-CURE.

“People on parole live in the community and pay taxes,” said Christie Donner, Executive Director of the CCJRC. “Denying them the right to vote is taxation without representation. We also know that civic participation is a key component to successful reintegration.”

The lawsuit, Danielson v. Dennis, was filed in federal district court in Denver and names Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis as the defendant.


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