Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 1.10.2017

Opportunities for Continued Success at the Colorado Legislature

This upcoming legislative session will have many familiar themes. In fact, the make-up at the Capitol looks very similar to the 2016 session, where each of our six top priority bills enjoyed bipartisan support on their way to being passed into law.

Related: Make Colorado a Civil Liberties Safe Zone

This year, we’ll continue working with legislators on restoring trust between police and communities. One planned piece of legislation will direct officers to provide the reason they stop an individual at a traffic or pedestrian stop. The evidence suggests that informing an individual of the basis for a stop is an effective de-escalation technique and should be a routine practice among law enforcement officers. A second piece of legislation deals with police transparency and accountability. Currently, many local law enforcement agencies refuse to provide information concerning the internal investigations of individual officers, even when the investigation is closed and no longer ongoing. We believe that the public has the right to know the outcome of investigations of police officers. Providing that transparency would enhance accountability and therefore, improve trust between police and community, which is essential for everyone’s safety.

We also plan to continue addressing many of the miscarriages of justice that happen in municipal courts. Last session, we championed two bills that addressed debtors’ prisons and the availability of public defenders in municipal courts. The cities vigorously fought the public defender bill, but it is now law. What we hear from a few municipal court judges is an unintended consequence is that people who are in jail over minor non-violent offenses will stay in longer because the courts won’t be able to provide a public defender quickly enough. To address that concern, we are looking into legislation that would require those individuals to be released if they are not likely to see a judge within a 48-hour timeframe.

Perhaps our most aspirational goal this session will be an attempt to end the death penalty in Colorado. Senator Guzman will initiate that legislation in the Senate, and we will need all the phone calls, emails, and letters to the Capitol we can get to make it happen.

Finally, in the area of privacy and technology, we are supporting legislation that would require law enforcement to secure a warrant before accessing an individual’s electronic communications. There is concern from technology providers that they have no guidance on how to respond to law enforcement requests and this legislation would establish a process to help those providers, but more importantly, to provide important privacy protections for individuals.

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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.