Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 2.25.2014

House Judiciary to hear debtors’ prison bill today

The House Judiciary committee will be hearing testimony on HB 1061 this afternoon. The bill would force Colorado municipalities to comply with existing Constitutional and Colorado laws requiring courts to determine whether a person is too poor to pay their court fines and fees before throwing them in jail for failing to pay.

The bill, sponsored by Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar, is the result of a two-year statewide ACLU investigation into the use of these practices by municipal courts.

UPDATE: The bill passed out of committee unanimously, 11-0

Read the prepared remarks our Public Policy Director, Denise Maes, will give at the hearing today

Original ACLU press release on results of investigation into Colorado debtors’ prisons

Denver Post article: “Colorado cities jail poor who can’t pay fines for minor offenses”

AP article: “Jail for fines? Colo. lawmaker wants to end policy”

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  • 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.