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. 

Support SB21-62: Virtual Activist Training

We need your help. If you live in Adams, Jefferson, Larimer or Pueblo, your Senator may be the deciding vote in whether pretrial justice succeeds in Colorado. Senate Bill 21-062 is being considered by the Colorado Senate. Without your support, this bill will not pass into law, and thousands of Coloradans will remain behind bars simply because they can’t afford to pay bond.


Suicide remains a leading cause of death in jail. Too many people will ultimately die from desperation behind bars solely because they can’t afford to pay bond. A justice system that requires money in exchange for freedom costs lives.

On April 28 at 4 p.m., join us for an hour of activism on SB21-062. You’ll get behind-the-scenes information on the bill, have all your questions answered and workshop the most impactful action you can take, including personalized emails and calls to your Senator.



1. It’s time to reverse the trend of CO’s exploding jail population. Before COVID, over 12,000 people slept in Colorado jails every night, an 800% increase since the 1970s. Our jail population grew exponentially because of a massive increase in the pretrial population.

2. Jails do not keep us safe. Failed broken windows policing and the war on drugs have filled our jails with people accused of low-level crimes who pose no safety risk.

3. Mass incarceration harms our most vulnerable communities. SB21-062 safely reduces jail populations by limiting cash bail and pretrial detention — punishments that disproportionately harm our most vulnerable neighbors. For example, people in jail are 4 times more likely to have disabilities, and more than half of people in jail have psychiatric disabilities.

4. SB21-62 is a racial justice bill. Black, Indigenous and Latino people are disproportionately policed and arrested compared to White people, and they are more likely to have money bond set, more likely to face higher bond amounts and more likely to be detained pretrial.

5. Jails are not a solution to societal problems. Jails have become our first response to homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness, even though jail staff lack the expertise or resources to address these societal problems.

6. Urgent need for pretrial justice. Most people in jail are held pretrial, have not been convicted of a crime, and remain incarcerated only because they cannot afford to pay money bond.

7. SB21-62 is a harm reduction bill. Because a disproportionate number of people living in poverty, LGBTIQ people, people with mental health issues, and people with disabilities are arrested and jailed for low-level crimes, SB21-062 is also a social justice bill. Because they are extremely vulnerable to violence, abuse, and trauma in interactions with police and in jails, SB21-062 is also a harm reduction bill.

8. SB21-62 ensures jails are reserved for people who pose a safety threat. SB21-62 adopts a narrow set of COVID-19 jail population reduction policies aimed at keeping people accused of low level offenses out of jail while leaving wide discretion to arrest and hold people who pose a safety threat.

9. SB21-62 safely decrease use of cash bonds. SB21-62 limits the use of money bonds to cases where there is a safety or a flight risk so that fewer people are incarcerated solely for poverty.

10. SB21-62 saves taxpayer money. With a daily incarceration cost of $98.83 per person, sustained jail population reductions could save local communities millions each year.

11. Wealth-based detention Is harmful, cruel and can be deadly. Suicide is a leading cause of death in jails. Too many Coloradans have died by suicide while held in jail on money bond. Under SB21-62, they would likely have been free.
Pretrial detention destabilizes people.
12. Pretrial detention can send people’s lives into a downward spiral as they risk losing their job, their housing, their medical care, and custody of their children. Pretrial detention puts people at a higher risk for future involvement with the criminal legal system while increasing convictions and causing steeper sentences.

13. Crime survivors in support of SB21-62. SB21-62 went through an eight-month stakeholder process and is supported by a wide coalition including victims rights organizations, crime survivors, racial justice advocates, interfaith groups, sheriffs, and public safety advocates who are working to make this bill into law. Many crime survivors feel the system is not working to protect them or repair the harm they have suffered. If arresting people accused of low-level crimes and the money bond system had kept them safe, survivors would not be in support of SB21-62.

14. Now is the time for police reform. Now is a time for law enforcement resources and attention to be directed at preventing real crime and violence, rather than on arresting and jailing folks dealing with visible homelessness, low-level offenses, and non-violent non-victims rights act crimes.

15. Follows best lessons from COVID-19. During the COVID-19 crisis, sheriffs, judges, public defenders, and district attorneys worked together to save lives by reserving jail beds for people who pose a safety risk to others. SB21-062 takes the lessons learned and best practices from COVID-era jail population reduction efforts and enshrines a narrow subset of these strategies into law going forward.

By minimizing arrests, limiting the use of cash bail and pretrial detention, and correcting systemic injustices, we can reduce Colorado’s jail populations AND safeguard the public.

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