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. 

Civil Liberties Groups Ask Colorado Supreme Court to Strike Down Douglas County Voucher Program


DENVER – A Douglas County school voucher program that allows taxpayer dollars to flow directly to religious schools is unconstitutional, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado say.

In a brief filed yesterday with the Colorado Supreme Court in the case of LaRue v. Colorado Board of Education, the civil liberties groups assert that the county’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” violates the Colorado Constitution because it subsidizes tuition at private schools with taxpayer dollars.

“Whenever taxpayers are directly subsidizing a religious organization it is plainly unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “That is clearly the case when it comes to Douglas County’s voucher scheme.”

The “scholarship” program offers tuition vouchers worth about $4,600 to 500 students to spend at religious and other private schools. In order to obtain state per-pupil educational funds, Douglas County treats these children as “public school students” attending a charter school that exists only on paper.

In reality, however, the voucher money is spent at district-approved “Private School Partners,” a collection of private schools. As of the filing of the lawsuit, 18 of the 23 approved Private School Partners were religious.

“The Douglas County School District … seeks to divert millions of state taxpayer dollars—which are designated for public elementary and high-school education—to private schools that are owned and operated by churches and other religious organizations,” the brief says. “Most of these schools embed religious instruction in all areas of their curricula. Most of them discriminate based on religion and require attendance at religious services.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling will not only affect Douglas County’s voucher scheme, but also other districts and government officials who are watching with their own plans to adopt similar unconstitutional diversions of taxpayer dollars to religious organizations,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.

The civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit in 2011 on behalf of parents, clergy and taxpayers. A lower court agreed with their position, but the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the voucher program in Feb. 2013.

“The Colorado Constitution was plainly intended to bar any form of tax aid to religious schools,” said Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser. “If the Constitution’s framers could know that a Colorado court had upheld this voucher program, they would be rolling over in their graves.”

The case will likely be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court late this year or early next year.

“Parents are free to choose religious education for their children, but the Colorado Constitution forbids taxpayer dollars from paying for that education,” said attorney Matthew J. Douglas of the Denver office of Arnold & Porter LLP, who is lead counsel in the case.

The plaintiffs are represented by Douglas, Timothy R. Macdonald, and Michelle K. Albert of Arnold & Porter LLP; Luchenitser and Ayesha N. Khan of Americans United; Heather L. Weaver and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Silverstein and Sara Rich of the ACLU of Colorado.

Read the brief here:

Visit the case page at:

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