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 Jailing Man Who Could Not Pay $50 Fee

October 10, 2018

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado sued Denver this morning on behalf of Mickey Howard, who was held in the Denver Jail for 5 days after a court ordered his release upon payment of a $10 bond, because he could not pay an additional $50 “bond fee.”

According to the lawsuit, Denver has a policy of continuing to imprison people who are unable to pay a $50 “bond fee,” even when they have the money to post the bond amount set by the court.

“Mr. Howard was arrested for two alleged violations of Denver ordinances. The court determined that he should be free while his case was pending upon payment of a mere $10, which Mr. Howard could pay. Yet, Denver continued to hold him in jail because he could not pay an additional $50 bond fee,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Jailing people solely because of poverty, particularly when those individuals are pretrial and innocent in the eyes of the law, is cruel, fiscally irrational and violates the Constitution’s guarantees of Equal Protection and Due Process.”

According to the ACLU, when Mr. Howard entered the jail, he had $64, which was enough to pay the $10 bond set by the court as well as the $50 bond fee. At the time of booking, however, Denver took another $30 from Mr. Howard as a “booking fee.” That left Mr. Howard with only $34, which was not enough to buy his release.

The ACLU lawsuit identifies two Denver policies that caused Mr. Howard’s unlawful detention: (1) requiring defendants to pay a $50 bond fee, in addition to the monetary bond set by the court, in order to gain their release; and (2) taking $30 from defendants at booking even when doing so will make them unable to post bond and/or pay the bond fee.

After five days in jail, Mr. Howard was freed only because the Colorado Freedom Fund, a non-profit bail fund, paid the bond fee. It costs $70 per day for Denver to house an inmate. Over the five days Mr. Howard was in jail, Denver spent more than $350 to detain him because he could not pay a $50 fee.

All charges against Mr. Howard were eventually dismissed. However, Denver is currently billing him (and turning those bills over to collections) for more than $600 in additional fees that are related solely to the dismissed case.

“I am happy to be free, but it shouldn’t have taken the Colorado Freedom Fund to get me out,” Howard said. “I had the money to pay my bond, but the jail took it from me and wouldn’t let me out because I didn’t also have the money to pay their fee. That’s not right. I am filing this case to get justice for me and to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.”

In August, El Paso County agreed, as part of a $190,000 settlement with ACLU of Colorado, to compensate 184 individuals who were held in the El Paso County Jail solely because they could not pay a $55 “pretrial supervision” fee.

“Colorado’s county jails are bursting at the seams, mostly with pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime. Yet, we continue to see cases across the state of individuals held in jail not because they are a danger or a flight risk, but because they are too poor to pay a county fee,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace. “These practices are illegal. It is past time for all counties, cities and sheriffs in Colorado to closely review their booking and bonding practices to ensure that they do not allow or facilitate incarceration based solely on poverty. Those that continue to illegally hold people in jail solely because they cannot pay fees should expect to be sued.”

The ACLU lawsuit was filed in federal district court. Howard is represented by Silverstein and Wallace of ACLU of Colorado.


Read the ACLU complaint:

Read: El Paso County Agrees to Pay $190K to Nearly 200 Individuals Who Were Jailed Because They Could Not Pay a $55 Fee

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