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?
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.
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.
Category Archives: End Debtors’ Prisons
ACLU of Colorado’s New Year’s Resolutions
2020 is here, and this will be a very important year for the ACLU, Colorado and our nation. Here are seven ACLU of Colorado resolutions for the New Year to help guide our work and yours: Bring Our Neighbors Home. The majority of people in Colorado jails are not there because they have been convicted of a crime. The majority are legally innocent and only incarcerated because they can’t afford to pay a monetary bond. As the Colorado legislative session begins this week, the ACLU of Colorado.... | Read More
Remembering Rev. Tammy Garrett-Williams
It is always sad to lose allies and friends of civil rights and civil liberties, but Colorado experienced a particularly great loss recently with the death of the Rev. Tammy Garrett-Williams. A fierce champion for the rights of people caught in the criminal justice system, her Above Waters Project has been deeply rooted in the lives of people directly impacted by mass incarceration and the criminal legal system. Her activism was widely visible across the community, from the NAACP to the Greater.... | Read More
ACLU Report Highlights Abusive and Unconstitutional Practices in Colorado City Courts
DENVER – Colorado’s more than 200 municipal courts operate without meaningful accountability or oversight, and one court in particular — the Alamosa Municipal Court— systematically violates the constitutional rights of its mainly impoverished criminal defendants, according to a report released today by the ACLU of Colorado. Justice Derailed: A case study of abusive and unconstitutional practices in Colorado city courts is based on a multi-year ACLU investigation which revealed that, despite.... | Read More
Debtors’ Prison Settlement: Aurora Cancels Debt, Withdraws Warrants, and Repays James Fisher for Excessive Payments to Municipal Court
1\23\17 DENVER – The City of Aurora has agreed to cancel hundreds of dollars of debt and reimburse nearly $800 in overpayments that James Fisher made to the Aurora Municipal Court while he attempted to resolve rapidly-ballooning fees that he could not afford to pay, according to a settlement announced today by the ACLU of Colorado. "James Fisher was trapped in a cycle of debt that is all too familiar to thousands of low-income Coloradans ticketed for minor ordinance violations. He made.... | Read More
Colorado Springs Agrees to $100K Settlement to Compensate Victims of Debtors’ Prison Practices
5/5/2016 DENVER – The City of Colorado Springs has agreed, as part of a $103,000 settlement with the ACLU of Colorado, to stop converting impoverished defendants’ fines into jail time, to stop sentencing defendants to jail for non-jailable offenses, and to compensate dozens of individuals whose court fines were illegally converted to jail time when they could not afford to pay. “Until last fall, the Colorado Springs Municipal Court was regularly sentencing poor and homeless defendants.... | Read More
Wheat Ridge Jailed Homeless Man in Violation of 2014 Law Banning Debtors’ Prisons
8/26/2015 DENVER – The Wheat Ridge Municipal Court violated a recently-enacted Colorado law banning debtor’s prison practices by sentencing a homeless man to jail because he could not pay a fine, according to a filing this morning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. Wilburn Taylor was cited for panhandling when a Wheat Ridge police officer found him with a blank cardboard and a pen, intending to make a sign requesting charity from passing motorists. Taylor appeared before.... | Read More
Colorado Legislature Approves Ban on Debtors’ Prisons
DENVER -The Colorado Senate today overwhelmingly passed a ban on the practice of jailing people for being too poor to pay fines. The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the House earlier this month, follows an in-depth investigation by the ACLU of Colorado that found that many Colorado cities and some county courts order the arrest and imprisonment of poor persons who miss payments of fines and court fees without a process to determine whether a person has the ability to pay, as the.... | Read More
Statement of the ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes on “social misbehavior” ordinances approved last night by the Boulder City Council
BOULDER - “The ACLU of Colorado is disappointed that the City of Boulder has decided to add its name to the long and growing list of municipalities around the state that have responded to poverty on their streets and in their public spaces by increasing surveillance, adding new criminal penalties, and giving more tools to police and municipal judges to push homeless and poor people out of their communities. “Two years ago, in a letter supporting the Boulder City Council’s decision to eliminate.... | Read More
Prepared Testimony of ACLU Public Policy Director Denise Maes on HB 1061 – Eliminate Prison for Inability to Pay Fines
Bill to be considered February 25 by the House Judiciary Committee at 1:30 pm MT “Debtors' prison sounds like an archaic term - some long abandoned concept from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. Unfortunately, their use is alive and well in Colorado and you don't have to travel very far beyond the Capitol to see it. “The U.S. Constitution and the Colorado Constitution prohibit debtors' prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether.... | Read More
CO Cities Illegally Jail Poor People for Failure to Pay Fines
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado accused three Front Range cities this morning of jailing people for failing to pay court-ordered fines that they are too poor to pay. Relying on state and federal court decisions, the ACLU sent letters to the cities demanding a prompt halt to the practice. The ACLU conducted an in-depth investigation into the municipal courts of Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and Northglenn, which routinely issue “pay or serve” warrants without any consideration for.... | Read More
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