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 Lawsuit Seeks Life-Saving Treatment for Thousands of Colorado Prisoners Suffering from Hepatitis C

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado filed a federal class action lawsuit this morning challenging the Colorado Department of Corrections’ systematic denial of life-saving treatment to more than 2,200 prisoners suffering from chronic Hepatitis C.

“Colorado has an immense public health crisis in its prisons.  At least one in every nine prisoners suffers from Hepatitis C, and complications from the disease kill nearly as many Coloradans in custody every year as drug and alcohol abuse, homicide, and suicide combined,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Highly-effective treatment is available that could prevent deaths and fight the spread of the virus, but DOC’s cruel and arbitrary standards deny that treatment to all but a select few prisoners, in violation of established medical standards and the Eighth Amendment.”

Hepatitis C is a life-threatening, communicable disease that attacks the liver, causing diminished liver function, cirrhosis, and liver failure.  It is the most deadly infectious disease in the U.S., killing more Americans than the next 60 infectious diseases combined.  Even in the initial stages of the disease, Hepatitis C can cause serious symptoms, including chronic fatigue, severe depression, arthritis, as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, nerve damage, jaundice, and various cancers.

Breakthrough medications approved by the FDA over the last four years cure Hepatitis C in more than 90 percent of cases.  The clinical standard of care, endorsed by a consensus of medical experts and associations, including the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, calls for administering these breakthrough medications to all persons with chronic Hepatitis C, even in the earliest stages of the disease.

In the Colorado Department of Corrections, however, prisoners suffering from Hepatitis C are not even considered for treatment until they have sustained measureable liver damage.  Even then, they are required to enroll in alcohol and drug therapy that can take up to two and a half years to complete, a requirement that, according to the ACLU complaint, has no medical justification.

A DOC committee meets four times a year to choose a select few prisoners from a candidate pool, based on a yearly quota, to receive treatment.

The ACLU’s complaint alleges that DOC officials are deliberately allowing the vast majority of prisoners who are not selected for treatment to suffer and die from untreated Hepatitis C.   In support, it quotes an email written last year by DOC Chief Medical Officer Susan Tiona to then-Senator Pat Steadman.   At the time, DOC was planning to provide Hepatitis C treatment to 20-25 prisoners a year.  With this plan, Dr. Tiona wrote, the DOC “should be effective in eliminating Department-wide deaths from Hepatitis C within the next decade” and “eliminating all additional complications from Hepatitis C by 2035.”

DOC now plans to treat up to 70 prisoners in the fiscal year beginning July, 2017.  Even at that rate, it will take more than 10 years just to treat the 735 prisoners that are currently eligible under DOC’s unjustifiably restrictive criteria, according to the ACLU complaint. Meanwhile, DOC refuses to even consider treatment for more than 1500 additional prisoners who have not yet sustained enough liver damage to meet their criteria.

“Despite the availability of a cure, DOC plans to leave thousands of prisoners untreated, to continue releasing those untreated prisoners back to the community with a communicable disease, and to accept years of additional deaths and serious medical complications from untreated Hepatitis C,” said Silverstein.  “Not only is that dangerous for public health, it is a cruel way to save some money  in the short term that may end up costing taxpayers a lot more in the long term.”

Similar class action lawsuits are pending against departments of corrections in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, and Virginia.

The ACLU of Colorado lawsuit was filed this morning in federal district court.  In addition to Silverstein, attorneys representing the prisoners include ACLU staff attorneys Sara Neel and Arash Jahanian and a team of ACLU cooperating attorneys at the firm of Fox Rothschild, LLP, led by partner Christopher Beall.


View the ACLU complaint:

Related – ACLU of Colorado Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Colorado Medicaid Over Unlawful Hepatitis C Treatment Restrictions

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