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 on behalf of Colorado woman who was jailed 27 days because she could not pay a $55 fee

November 7, 2017

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning against El Paso County on behalf of Jasmine Still, a Colorado Springs resident who was held in jail for 27 days after a court granted her release, without payment of money, through a personal recognizance bond (PR bond). Despite the court’s order, El Paso County continued to hold Ms. Still, because she was unable to pay a $55 fee for El Paso County Pretrial Services.

According to the lawsuit, El Paso County has a policy of continuing to imprison people who have been granted a PR bond if they cannot pay the county-imposed fee. This policy has caused the illegal imprisonment of hundreds of pre-trial detainees, who are innocent in the eyes of the law and have only been charged with, not convicted of, a crime.

“The court determined that Ms. Still was not a flight risk or a danger to the community and that she deserved to be free while her case was pending, yet El Paso County held her in jail for nearly a month solely because she could not afford to pay a $55 fee,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Jailing someone because of their poverty is not only cruel, it is unconstitutional.”

“We estimate that, in a one year period, El Paso County held over 300 defendants in jail for a total of more than 3000 days only because they couldn’t come up with the money to pay a $55 fee,” said ACLU of Colorado staff attorney Rebecca Wallace.  “Putting aside the illegality of the County’s practice, it makes no economic sense.  Waiving those fees would have cost the County about $16,000, but jailing those defendants who could not pay cost taxpayers more than $266,000.”

Still had never before been arrested, booked into a jail, or charged with a crime. While incarcerated for 27 days, she was separated from her newborn child, and child custody proceedings were initiated against her.  In order to fight for her children, she decided she had no choice but to plead guilty to secure her release, rather than fight her case.

“Every day I was in jail, I thought there had to have been some kind of mistake.  I didn’t think you could jail someone just because they were poor,” said Still. “I am fighting back not just for me, but for all of the other people who El Paso County has kept in jail because they couldn’t scrape together $55.”

“Ms. Still’s story underscores the unjust and needless costs of pretrial incarceration,” said Wallace.  “Pre-trial jail stays can and do cause legally innocent people to lose out on pay, lose their job, lose custody of their children, lose their housing and lose their vehicle.  With all of these pressures building on pretrial defendants, it is no wonder that many defendants plead guilty just to get out of jail.”

Earlier this year, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the El Paso County Jail was “bursting at the seams” after the population surged to more than 1,750 inmates. 

“If El Paso County wants to decrease the number of inmates in its jails and also save money, it should start by immediately releasing those whom the court has ordered released on personal recognizance,” said Silverstein.

In addition to asking for compensation for Ms. Still and additional plaintiffs who may later be added to the suit, the ACLU seeks to end the unconstitutional policy of jailing defendants who are too poor to pay a $55 fee.


Read the ACLU complaint:

Gazette: El Paso County jail staff scrambles as inmate population keeps growing

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