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 Denver for Disclosure of City Jail Policies and Procedures in Advance of Democratic National Convention

The ACLU of Colorado announced today that it had filed suit against Denver in state district court seeking disclosure of the policy and procedure manual that governs the processing and treatment of detainees at Denver’s downtown city jail, known as the Pre-Arraignment Detention Facility, or PADF.  The PADF is Denver’s intake center, where arrestees are first taken to be booked, fingerprinted, given the opportunity to post bond, and housed until they are released or eventually transferred to Denver’s larger county jail on Smith Road.

According to the lawsuit, which relies on the Colorado open records laws, Denver has refused to disclose the PADF manual, claiming that disclosure “would be contrary to the public interest.”   “The City has it wrong,” said John Culver, an ACLU Cooperating Attorney who is lead counsel in the case.  “Disclosure of public agencies’ policies and procedures is in the public interest.   The public has a right to know how its government agencies are operating.  It is Denver’s secrecy that is ‘contrary to the public interest.’”

The lawsuit recounts various problems and complaints regarding the operation of the PADF.  They include the tragic death of Emily Rice, which prompted a currently pending federal lawsuit; unreasonable delays in processing detainees, including holding persons up to ten and twelve hours even after they have posted bond; and the erroneous detention of innocent persons who are mistakenly held on the basis of warrants for different persons.   “The public has a right to ask whether these failures are the result of inadequate policies,” said Taylor Pendergrass, ACLU staff attorney, “or whether they reflect failures of an overworked and understaffed jail to comply with policies that would be adequate if they were actually followed.”

The lawsuit also raises questions prompted by the possibility of mass arrests in connection with protests at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver.   According to papers filed in court, last summer the ACLU asked Denver police to handle minor violations with a summons or a notice to appear in court, a practice known as “cite and release.”  Denver Police Department Deputy Chief Battista reportedly responded that under Denver’s current policy, police must make full custodial arrests—requiring detention in the PADF—for even minor violations connected with protests.

“Unless Denver changes its ‘no cite and release’ policy for minor protest-related violations,” Pendergrass said, “there is an serious risk that arrests will overload the staffing and physical infrastructure of the PADF.  The public has a right to examine the policies and procedures of the PADF and evaluate whether the facility is prepared to avoid the problems New York City experienced during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when 1500 arrests for minor violations caused excessive backlogs and serious problems with access to food, medicine, attorneys, sanitary facilities, and delivery of medical care to vulnerable detainees.”
Defendants named in the lawsuit are the City and County of Denver and Al LaCabe, Manager of Safety, who oversees the Denver Sheriff’s Department.   In addition to Culver and Pendergrass, ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein also represents the ACLU in the litigation.

   * Read additional information about the lawsuit, including the Table of Contents for the PADF manual and a report documenting problems caused by mass arrests during the 2004 RNC.

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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