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  • 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 https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • 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.

ACLU Sues Boulder County Jail For Restricting Prisoners

First Amendment Rights of Prisoners And Their Correspondents Are Violated
 

 

CONTACT: Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, 303-777-5482 x114
 
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado today sued Boulder County Jail officials for enacting an unconstitutional policy barring prisoners from sending letters to people in the outside world.  
 
Implemented in March, the policy restricts all outgoing correspondence to postcards supplied by the jail, except narrow categories deemed to be “legal” or “official” mail.
 
“This postcard-only policy severely restricts prisoners’ ability to communicate with their parents, children, spouses, domestic partners, sweethearts, friends, or anyone else who does not fall within the jail’s narrow exception to the newly-imposed ban on outgoing letters,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado. “This unjustified restriction on written communications violates the rights of both the prisoners and their correspondents.  Families have a First Amendment right to receive all of their loved one’s written words, not just the few guarded sentences a prisoner can fit onto a postcard.”  
 
According to the class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Denver, the postcard-only policy has forced prisoners to either abandon important correspondence or risk divulging highly confidential, sensitive information to anyone who will handle or see a postcard.  As a result, gay prisoners have been chilled from expressing themselves when writing to their intimate partners. Prisoners with HIV or Hepatitis C have refrained from corresponding with family members about their medical conditions. Prisoners who express themselves through drawings or cartoons cannot enclose their art.  Those who wish to share an inspirational religious tract, or a clipping from a newspaper or magazine, are forbidden from doing so. When children may have access to the mailbox, parents are chilled from writing to their spouses about marital problems, child-raising issues, and other matters they do not wish to disclose to their children. The policy also prevents prisoners from using envelopes to send letters that seek spiritual guidance from clergy, provide sensitive information to investigative reporters, or to submit articles or letters to newspapers or other periodicals for publication.
 
“Writing letters to people in the free world is critical for helping prisoners maintain ties to their families and communities and ensuring their successful reintegration upon release,” said David Fathi, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project.  “Enacting an across-the-board policy that significantly restricts the First Amendment freedoms of all current and future pre-trial detainees and prisoners in the jail is both unwise and unconstitutional.”
 
Before the challenged policy was adopted, prisoners were allowed to write five three-page letters per week, with paper, envelope, and postage supplied by the jail.  The new policy was adopted after two prisoners  enclosed letters to Boulder-area children inside letters addressed to a third party outside the jail.  That person then mailed the previously-enclosed letters to the children, which arrived without bearing the usual warning that the mailing originated from the Boulder jail. 
 
“While we understand the jail’s desire to address this situation, the postcard-only policy is an over-reaction that unnecessarily infringes on the rights of hundreds of persons,” Fathi explained.   “The jail could easily have adopted a less restrictive rule—such as prohibiting envelopes within envelopes—that would have addressed the issue without infringing so drastically on the First Amendment rights of all prisoners and their free-world correspondents.”   
 
The Boulder County Jail, located in Boulder, Colorado, has an average daily population of approximately 400.  It houses both convicted prisoners and detainees who are awaiting trial.
 
The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of five individual prisoners who represent a class of current and future prisoners subject to the postcard-only policy. 
 
The lawsuit names as defendants Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, and Division Chief Larry R. Hank, administrator of the Boulder County Jail. It seeks a court ruling invalidating the postcard-only policy.
 
 
About the ACLU of Colorado
The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the principles of the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy and public education.  The ACLU Foundation of Colorado works to protect the rights of all Coloradans.



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