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. 

Coalition Files Lawsuit Urging State Supreme Court to Protect Jails and Public from COVID-19

April 3, 2020

DENVER – The Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel filed two emergency petitions today asking the Colorado Supreme Court to take immediate action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado jails by issuing a directive that lower courts are to do their part to safely reduce the number of people who are incarcerated during this crisis. The petitions ask the Court to immediately issue guidance to safely limit the number of people (1) arrested and booked into jail, (2) held in jail pretrial on unaffordable money bond; and (3) held on certain sentences. The ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Lawyers Civil Rights Coalition joined the petition as parties in interest.

“COVID-19 poses an imminent public health threat to people who are incarcerated, who are disproportionately vulnerable to the virus, where social distancing is impossible, and with facilities that do not have adequate medical care to meet these needs,” State Public Defender Megan Ring said. “Colorado’s judicial leadership must protect inmates, correctional staff and the public by providing guidance to all Colorado judges to assist in depopulating jails during this pandemic.”

Spread of COVID-19 through the jail system has already begun, with confirmed cases in Denver and Greeley, and many other symptomatic, but untested, inmates in other jails. On April 1, El Paso County Jail Deputy Jeff Hopkins who worked in intake and release died of COVID-19. He had worked with about 40 other deputies as well as 25-30 civilians. Deputy Hopkins was 41.

On March 25, Governor Polis took executive action to aid in lowering the jail population, stating that “Reducing the numbers of those arrested or incarcerated is vital to our efforts to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.” Today’s petition asks the Colorado Supreme Court to translate this guidance into real action throughout all Colorado courts in every county. Guidance from judicial leadership is critical given that, so far, the responses from courts have been extremely uneven.

“While some jails are seeing appropriate depopulation, others have seen very little change in numbers of incarcerated people and the results could prove catastrophic,” ACLU of Colorado Senior Staff Attorney and Senior Policy Counsel Rebecca Wallace said. “In Weld County, with inmates sleeping and eating within feet of one another, it is almost certain that others both inside and outside the jail will contract COVID-19. From Weld County to Denver, this is a dire matter of public health that requires immediate action.”

According to public health experts, unless and until Colorado jails depopulate to the point that incarcerated people and staff can practice social distancing at all hours of the day, jails will remain a serious public health threat to all Coloradans, both behind bars and those living free.

At least eight state and local court systems — in Alabama, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia, have already taken steps to limit incarceration during this crisis. The petition explains that the Supreme Court has and should exercise the power to depopulate the criminal legal system as a part of the COVID-19 public health response.

“While our jail population is down 30%, responses across the criminal legal system have been uneven,” Legislative Policy Coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Tristan Gorman said. “We need the Colorado Supreme Court to provide the kind of guidance we have seen in several other states, to ensure that we provide statewide solutions to a pandemic that knows no geographic boundaries.”


For a list of resources and recent actions by ACLU of Colorado and others to stop the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons go to:


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

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