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. 


As Graduation Approaches, Kiowa County Family Asks Court to End School-sponsored Religious Exercises


May 23, 2002

An Eastern Colorado family who has asked the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) for help in ending religious exercises in a Kiowa County public school is expected to testify in federal district court this Friday, the ACLU said today.


Thirteen-year-old Ashlee Shields and her father, Sean Shields, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday seeking an end to school-sponsored religious messages, including a planned school-sponsored prayer at the graduation ceremony scheduled for this Saturday at Plainview School in Sheridan Lakes, a small town 140 miles east of Denver with a population of about 60 K-12 students.

"School personnel who use their official position to promote the majority Christian religion make children and their parents who believe otherwise feel unwelcome in their own school and in their own community," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director.

In an affidavit on file with the Court, Ashlee, a seventh grade student at the combined high school and middle school, explained that she does not share the religious beliefs espoused by the majority of her schoolmates, and she is made to feel like an unwanted outsider when the school program includes prayer or religious songs.


"I don't think I should have to just try to ignore the prayer and I don't want to have to leave the room because it makes me the center of attention and makes me feel left out," Ashlee explained. "I don't think I should have to choose between listening to prayers or not being able to participate in school activities."


According to the ACLU lawsuit, a Christian minister delivered a prayer at the graduation ceremony every year until the spring of 2001, when Sean, a math teacher at the school, protested to school officials. The school responded by substituting a student-delivered "message" on the graduation program last year. The senior class was permitted to vote on whether the message would be a prayer. When the seniors voted not to deliver a prayer, the lawsuit states, community members complained. The school then organized a second vote in which the seniors complied with community pressure and voted to deliver a prayer.


"Under our Constitution, freedom of religion can't be put to a vote, and the majority is not permitted to impose its religious beliefs on the minority," explained Jim Hubbell, an ACLU cooperating attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Shields family. "In other parts of the world, religion is used by local majorities to justify mistreating religious minorities, including Christian missionaries. Such religious intolerance continues to destroy communities all over the world. We cannot risk letting that happen in Colorado."


The ACLU lawsuit said that school authorities regularly open school-sponsored activities with a prayer, including the annual teacher orientation that Sean is required to attend. Bibles were distributed to each teacher last year through the school's internal mail, and school authorities arranged for bibles to be given to each student who turned in a signed permission slip that the school handed out for children to take home.


"Public schools are not Sunday school, and the place for the teaching of religion is the home and places of worship chosen by the parents," Silverstein said. "Schools can and should teach tolerance and good citizenship, but they cannot favor one religion over another or belief over non-belief," he added, noting that the United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, home to 1500 religious groups, along with atheists, agnostics, and other belief systems.


A ruling on the family's request for temporary restraining order is expected shortly after Friday's 9 a.m. hearing before federal district court judge Marcia Krieger.


Declaration of Sean Shields

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