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. 

ACLU of Colorado Statement on Governor’s Use of Clemency

December 23, 2020

The following statement can be attributed to Denise Maes, ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director.

This afternoon, Governor Jared Polis announced that he is exercising his clemency power to release four people from prison who deserve a second chance. We know these releases mean a great deal to these four families, and we are celebrating with them. In granting clemency as he has done, Governor Polis leads Colorado in a small step toward redemption and compassion. 

We note that many of the petitions the Governor acted on today have been on his desk for months awaiting action. This includes the petition of Mr. Anthony Martinez, an 84-year old grandfather who suffers from dementia, renal failure and relies on a wheelchair to get around. Mr. Martinez is not a public safety risk and should have been granted clemency long ago. There are also hundreds like Mr. Martinez who can be safely released from our prisons but are left behind in the Governor’s action.

COVID-19 is spreading unabated in Colorado prisons. More than 6,800 people have tested positive for the disease, over 40% of the population has been infected, and a new death is announced every few days. Other Governors are meeting this moment by releasing thousands and yet our Governor releases four, a far cry from what is needed and a far cry from those deserving the mercy and compassion of which the Governor speaks. There are simply way too many people left behind. 

Our incarceration system is massive, brutal and suffers greatly from racial inequities. Clemency is the only real corrective check on this unjust system and can only be exercised by the Governor. But for clemency to be an effective check it must be constantly and consistently applied. Once a year during the holidays is not enough. Four people are too few. We urge the Governor to use this corrective power more frequently and to take seriously every petition that lands on his desk in a timely fashion. You, Governor, have the power to define what redemption, mercy and compassion look like. Be bold and do the right thing. Redemption is real, and so is compassion.


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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