Tweets

Colorado Rights Blog

Videos

  • 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: acluco.org/redemption. 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 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. 

Bills to Protect the Rights of Poor Defendants in Municipal Court Receive Broad Bipartisan Support, Head to the Governor’s Desk

DENVER – The Colorado legislature passed two pieces of legislation in recent days to protect the rights of poor and vulnerable defendants in Colorado’s municipal courts.  Both bills await Governor Hickenlooper’s signature.

Nearly three-fourths of Colorado’s lawmakers supported HB16 – 1309 (fact sheet), a bill to safeguard the right to counsel in municipal court.  In state and county courts, an attorney is available at first appearance to advocate for the release of jailed defendants and to advise those defendants on pleas when jail is a possible sentence.  In almost all Colorado municipal courts, however, defendants must face the judge alone, must make arguments for release alone, and must decide how to plead alone.  HB16 – 1309 requires counsel be provided at first appearance to defendants who cannot afford to bond out of jail on a minor municipal offense and who face a possible jail sentence.

Earlier today, the Colorado Senate voted 23 to 12 in support of HB16 -1311 (fact sheet), a bill to finally end the practice of jailing people who cannot afford to pay fines and fees in Colorado. In 2014, the legislature passed HB-1061 with near-unanimous bipartisan support, acting to end debtors’ prisons in Colorado.  District and county courts followed that law, but municipal courts found a loophole to keep jailing people who are too poor to pay. HB16 – 1311 closes the loophole and finally ends debtors’ prison practices in Colorado municipal courts.

ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes issued the following statement:

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado commends the Colorado legislature for coming together to protect the rights and liberties of Colorado’s most vulnerable defendants in municipal court.

“Being poor is not a crime. The ACLU of Colorado has found overwhelming evidence that poor people are often punished, and even jailed, by Colorado’s municipal courts just for being poor.

“Impoverished municipal defendants routinely plead guilty without the advice of counsel just to get out of jail, even when they are innocent.  These same defendants often experience collateral consequences of their plea – including obstacles to employment, housing, and government benefits – that are never explained at court, due to the lack of counsel.

“Municipal courts continue to use jail and the threat of jail to collect debts from the poor, creating a two-tiered system of justice in which people who cannot afford to pay are imprisoned, while those with means simply pay their debt and move on with their lives.

“The steps taken by the legislature this session, if approved by the Governor, will reduce the number of innocent, unrepresented defendants who are wrongly jailed for crimes they did not commit and will finally put municipal courts in line with the well-established Constitutional principle that jail should never be used to collect payment from those who cannot pay.

“We strongly urge Governor Hickenlooper to sign both bills without delay, and we look forward to working with Colorado’s emerging coalition of reform-minded legislators on future improvements to make our courts and criminal justice system more fair, efficient, and consistent with Constitutional principles.”

RESOURCES:

ACLU fact sheet on HB16 – 1309, a bill to safeguard the right to counsel in Colorado municipal courts

ACLU fact sheet on HB16 – 1311, a bill to end debtors’ prisons in Colorado

 



Return to News