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 of Colorado and Coalition Partners Question Denver Sheriff’s Budget Priorities

October 21, 2015

DENVER – As Mayor Michael Hancock prepares to present his 2016 city budget, several of Denver’s leading criminal justice reform organizations submitted a joint letter to City Council questioning the$24 million increase in the Denver Sheriff Department’s budget.

The coalition includes ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Latino Forum, Drug Policy Alliance, Criminal Defense Institute, Colorado Justice Reform Coalition and Colorado Defense Bar.

The letter outlines several concerns:

  • In 2005, Denver voters were asked to support a massive bond measure to expand the jails. Voters were told that no new staff at the Sheriff’s Department would be needed due to greater efficiency.
  • It is unclear whether the $24million increase reflects the total cost of the consultant’s recommendations.
  • There has been no concerted effort in Denver to reduce the jail population either before or simultaneously to this budget increase, nor does the budget address the issue of overrepresentation of people of color in jail.
  • Over 50% of people are incarcerated because they do not have the money to post bond. This is despite a US Dept. of Justice opinion that says that the overreliance of money bonds without consideration of indigence violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • There is also no consideration in the Sheriff’s budget request to improve and expand access to programs and services for people in jail or policies that expand pre-arrest diversion for low-level offenses to prevent jail at the onset.

The coalition notes that this week, over 100 police chiefs and government prosecutors are meeting at the White House to address ways to reduce incarceration rates. We think Denver’s city leaders should also work to reverse mass incarceration and repair the harm caused, particularly in communities of color.  We ask Denver to follow the example of other government entities in Colorado who have used the “power of the purse” to chart a new course.

“A public budget is a moral document that is supposed to reflect the values and priorities of the community.  For the undersigned organizations, this proposed $24 million budget increase neither aligns with our values or our priorities,” said Denise Maes, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Colorado.

The reform organizations urge the Council not to approve this $24 million increase without the following caveats:

1) the Denver Sheriff’s Department will provide City Council and the public its projections for future costs beyond the $24 million currently requested to implement the consultant’s recommendations

2) the Council should immediately create a committee that includes community representatives with experience in criminal justice reform that is tasked with making recommendations on how to reduce the jail population and strengthen inmate programs.

The Denver City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2016 Budget on Monday, October 26th.   Representatives from several of the signatory organizations will present testimony.

The joint letter to City Council is available here.

Return to News