Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.


October 11, 2005

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) announced today that its attorneys had filed suit against the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) on behalf of Timothy Sheline, a Jewish prisoner whose kosher food diet was revoked for one year as punishment for allegedly violating a minor dining hall rule.

According to the lawsuit, the DOC has recognized that Mr. Sheline’s sincerely-held religious beliefs require that he maintain a kosher diet. The DOC was providing that diet until last spring, when Sheline was notified that his right to receive a kosher food tray in the prison dining hall had been revoked.

The lawsuit states that Sheline’s kosher diet was revoked because a guard in the dining hall reported that Sheline was caught taking two packages of butter and two packages of salad dressing from his food tray and putting them in his pocket.

Since his kosher diet was revoked in April, the lawsuit states, Sheline has been struggling to survive on a severely-restricted diet of the few kosher foods he is able to purchase at the prison canteen with his meager funds. As a result, he has lost over 30 pounds on a diet consisting almost entirely of peanut butter and crackers.

“The Constitution protects the right of prisoners to freely exercise and practice their religious beliefs,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Congress recently strengthened the legal protections available to prisoners when it enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, (RLUIPA). That statute places a heavy burden of proof on the government to justify any restrictions on religious practice.”

“It took extensive litigation several years ago to force the DOC to provide kosher meals to Jewish prisoners whose religious practice requires them,” Silverstein continued. “Prisoners can now receive religious diets, but the DOC claims, unjustifiably, that it has the right to revoke those diets on the basis of alleged violations of minor dining hall rules. The DOC certainly has a right to enforce its dining hall rules and to sanction prisoners who violate them. But it cannot do so by infringing and burdening the right of prisoners to practice their religion.”

The DOC revoked Mr. Sheline’s entitlement to a kosher diet on the basis of Administrative Regulation 1550-06, which sets out procedures for granting and revoking religious diets. The ACLU contends that the diet-revocation provisions violate the right of prisoners to religious freedom and due process of law.

The lawsuit, Sheline v. Ortiz, was filed in United States District Court in Denver.  

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