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 Sues Aurora, Prior Convictions Shouldn’t Prohibit People From Running for Office

May 27, 2021

DENVER – Today, ACLU of Colorado sued the City of Aurora for blocking a candidate with a prior felony conviction from running for public office. Candice Bailey, an Aurora resident and community leader for racial justice, intends to run for an at-large position on the Aurora City Council in the November 2021 municipal election. But the Aurora City Charter and City Code forbid her from being a candidate or holding public office solely based on her past conviction.

“A city has no legitimate business barring someone from running for office simply because they have a past felony conviction,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director. “The Colorado Constitution, as well as Colorado statutes, make it clear that persons who have been convicted of a felony are restored to their full rights of citizenship, including the right to run for public office, when they have completed their sentence.”

To run for municipal office in Aurora, the Aurora City Charter and the Aurora City Code hold that all candidates must meet the following requirements:

  1. a) be a registered elector of Aurora
  2. b) be a United States citizen
  3. c) be a resident of the City for at least a year before the date of the election
  4. d) be 21 years of age or older before the date of the election
  5. e) have no felony convictions

Ms. Bailey meets all requirements to run for elected office in Aurora, except one. In 1999, when Ms. Bailey was 22 years old, she pled guilty to second degree assault, a class 4 felony. As a result of that conviction, Ms. Bailey spent approximately three years in prison. She successfully completed her full term of imprisonment and all the requirements of her sentence. Pursuant to the Colorado Constitution, Ms. Bailey automatically regained her “full rights of citizenship,” including the right to run for office.

“The mistakes of your life shouldn’t stop you from living life to the fullest or being of service,” Bailey said. “This is not just about me, but about making sure that all future candidates with felony convictions won’t face the same barrier I have, and ultimately, for voters to decide who they want to represent their communities.”

The Colorado Supreme Court has characterized the right to run for office as “fundamental,” which means that the City must demonstrate an especially compelling justification for refusing to allow the voters to make the decision whether to elect Ms. Bailey.

The ACLU of Colorado confronted a similar issue in 2001, with a demand letter arguing that a recently-enacted Colorado Springs ordinance unconstitutionally barred persons with felony convictions from running for office. The city council repealed the ordinance. A similar resolution is not possible in Aurora, because the challenged prohibition appears in the City Charter itself.

Because of racial bias that has operated at every level of the criminal justice system, Black and Brown communities face disproportionate barriers based on past felony convictions.

“The Aurora laws we challenge today represent arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination, particularly against people of color everywhere,” Silverstein said. “These provisions also violate the rights of Aurora residents, who should be free to choose the candidates they believe will be their best representatives. These biased barriers deprive the voters of that choice,” Silverstein said.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in Arapahoe County District Court. ACLU of Colorado is asking the Court to rule that 1) the challenged Aurora provisions violate the state Constitution and state statutes; and 2) that Aurora cannot rely on the challenged provisions to deny Ms. Bailey the right to run for public office. Because candidate petitions must be filed in August, Ms. Bailey’s attorneys are also requesting an expedited hearing. Ms. Bailey is represented by Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Senior Staff Attorney Sara Neel, and ACLU cooperating attorney Edward Ramey, of Tierney Lawrence LLC.


Read the full complaint


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.


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