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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.

El Paso County Agrees to Pay $190K to Nearly 200 Individuals Who Were Jailed Because They Could Not Pay a $55 Fee

DENVER – El Paso County has agreed, as part of a 190,000 settlement with ACLU of Colorado, to compensate 184 people, including ACLU client Jasmine Still, who were held in the El Paso County Jail solely because they could not pay a $55 fee.

The proposed settlement, which is expected to be formally approved by county commissioners on Tuesday, provides for a $60,000 payment for Still’s damages, attorneys’ fees and costs. An additional 183 people are eligible for compensation based on a rate of $125 per day of illegal incarceration, for a total of 1043 days.

According to the lawsuit filed by ACLU of Colorado in November 2017, El Paso County had a policy of continuing to imprison pretrial detainees who the court had ordered released without the payment of money—through a personal recognizance bond (PR bond)—only because they were unable to pay a $55 fee to fund El Paso County Pretrial Services. Within days of the lawsuit being filed, the Chief Judge of the 4th Judicial District issued an order ending the practice.

“Many defendants caught up in the criminal justice system have only minor records and pose little or no threat to public safety, which is why the court orders their release on a PR bond,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The cruel and thoughtless policy at the heart of this lawsuit targeted the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, and most impoverished individuals in this group—those who can’t even access a mere $55 to secure their release. County officials deserve credit not only for ending the policy, but also for agreeing to compensate nearly 200 additional individuals that the ACLU did not represent, who spent time in jail solely because they could not pay a $55 fee.”

The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jasmine Still, who spent 26 days in jail after the court had granted her a PR bond. While incarcerated, Still was separated from her newborn child and child custody proceedings were initiated against her. In order to fight those proceedings, she decided she had no choice but to plead guilty to secure her release.

“I am grateful that this case is finally over and that I can tell my children that I was part of something bigger than just me—that I stood up with the ACLU to fight for the rights of 183 other people,” says Still.  “El Paso County did something I didn’t expect—they stepped up to make this right. I hope this case will make other places think twice before they lock people up just because they can’t pay.”

All of the individuals harmed by this practice were jailed pretrial, meaning they had only been accused of a crime and were presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. Many saw their charges dropped or, even if convicted, received no jail time for their sentence.

“This lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace.  “Across Colorado, every day, thousands of individuals are incarcerated pretrial only because they can’t pay a money bond set by the court. In this irrational system, people with money to pay their bail go free, keep their jobs, and prepare their defense—regardless of the crime they’ve been charged with or their likelihood of fleeing prosecution. Those without money, on the other hand, languish in jail, often losing their jobs, their homes or custody of their children. Many, like Jasmine Still, feel forced to plead guilty just to get out of jail. This modern-day debtors’ prison in Colorado’s overcrowded jails is cruel and costly. It must end.”

RESOURCES:

ACLU Sues on Behalf of Colorado Woman Who Was Jailed 27 Days Because She Could Not Pay a $55 Fee



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