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. 

Governor and State Officials Urged to Reduce Jail and Prison Population During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 17, 2020

DENVER – With the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 climbing in Colorado, several organizations called on Governor Polis, State Court Administrator Vasconcellos, and Chief Justice Coats, as well as the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Colorado Parole Board and the Colorado Department of Safety, to take immediate action to protect the lives of vulnerable inmates, guards, correctional and court staff, attorneys, probation officers, parole officers, their families and the public from the inevitable community spread of the pandemic. The signatories of the letter are: ACLU of Colorado, Office of the State Public Defender, Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Denver Municipal Public Defender, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Colorado Freedom Fund, and Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel, Criminal Justice Act Panel Standing Committee.

“Without immediate and bold action, Colorado’s prisons and jails may well become the epicenter for the broad community spread of COVID-19 … by definition, they are crowded, highly populated environments. While Governor Polis has urged a limit to public gatherings of more than 50 people, the vast majority of Colorado’s 57 jails and 23 prisons house far more than 50 inmates and staff on any given day. For example, the Sterling Correctional facility holds close to 2,500 inmates and Denver County Jail holds about 2,000. In these facilities, staff and inmates have close and daily contact, and inmates literally sleep, eat, and use the toilet within a few feet of one another. In these circumstances, social distancing is literally impossible. Many underfunded and overcrowded jails are already unsanitary, have minimal and uncertain access to hygiene products, and extremely limited access to medical care. Further, in overcrowded jails, quarantining more than a small number of sick inmates is impossible. These conditions are ideal for spreading COVID-19, perhaps more so than any other environment in Colorado.” 

The letter urges officials to use their existing powers and “moral authority” to protect people involved in the state’s jail and prison system through a detailed action plan, which is centered around four overarching goals: (1) immediately and safely decrease the number of people in Colorado’s jails and prisons; (2) dramatic decrease of new admissions into jails and prisons; (3) change of court practice to dramatically decrease in-person appearances; and (4) evidence-based, humane and rights-affirming measures to protect the health and wellbeing of the inmates and staff who spend the majority of their time in Colorado’s jails and prisons. 

“It is not a question of if COVID-19 will infect Colorado’s jails and prisons; it is a matter of when failure to take immediate steps to decarcerate is likely to worsen and extend this public health crisis.”

Read the full letter sent to Governor Polis and other state officials. 


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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