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  • 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 to Fort Collins: Sit-Lie Proposal is Outrageous, Cruel, and Absurd

2/16/17

DENVER – In a letter sent today, the ACLU of Colorado called on the Fort Collins City Council to abandon an “outrageous, cruel, and absurd” proposed ordinance that would make it a crime, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $2650, to sit, kneel, or lie down in a large portion of downtown, to sit for too long on public benches, or to have more “attended property” than a person can carry, such as a shopping cart filled with possessions.

“The intention of this ordinance is clear.  It is designed to give police tools to harass, arrest, and remove people who are homeless from downtown Fort Collins,” said ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley. “People do not lose their right to exist when they lose a home.  Fort Collins should abandon this ill-conceived ordinance and focus its resources instead on real solutions to poverty and homelessness.”

The so-called “disruptive behavior” ordinance would make it a jailable offense to sit, kneel, or lie down within 20 feet of any commercial property or pedestrian walkway or to sit for more than an hour on chairs and public benches or to use them for “any purpose other than sitting.” The ordinance also includes a vaguely-worded prohibition on “unattended property” and language criminalizing the possession of “attended property” unless it is “less than or equal to an amount that may reasonably be expected to be hand-carried by a single adult.”

Along with the proposed ordinance, the Council is considering spending up to $150,000 a year in city funds to purchase beds in the Larimer County Jail to house “repeat municipal offenders.”

“It’s absurd to think that sitting down or having more possessions than a person can carry are disruptive behaviors that must be criminalized,” said Woodliff-Stanley. “Equal enforcement of such a vague and incomprehensible law would be impossible.  It is all but certain that the ordinance would be enforced in a discriminatory manner, ignoring the actions of people who have money while harassing those who appear homeless, poor, or of an undesired ethnicity, opening the city to potential liability as a result.”

In March 2015, Fort Collins settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Colorado following revelations that the city had enforced its panhandling law predominantly against individuals who peacefully asked for charity by displaying a sign, an activity that is protected by the First Amendment and that was not prohibited by the panhandling ordinance.  The city agreed to repeal portions of its ordinance, pay the ACLU of Colorado’s legal fees, and stop arresting, ticketing, citing, or interfering with the rights of people who peacefully ask for charity.

The City of Fort Collins posted an online survey and will host an open house event on Thursday, Feb. 23rd at Northside Aztlan from 6-7:30 pm to receive community input on the proposed ordinance.

Resources:

Read the ACLU of Colorado letter: http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-02-17-FC-City-Council-ACLU-FC-sit-lie-ordinance.pdf

Read ACLU Announces Settlement with Fort Collins over Panhandling Law



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