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. 

NFL Professional Athletes Call on Governor Polis to Safely Release People from Prison

January 12, 2021

DENVER – In an ad launched today, local NFL professional athletes have teamed up with ACLU of Colorado, urging Governor Jared Polis to use his clemency powers to safely release medically vulnerable people from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ad is part of the launch of Colorado’s Redemption Campaign, a statewide initiative to liberate thousands of people who pose no public safety risk from Colorado prisons by challenging Governor Polis to use existing clemency powers in new and transformational ways. Founding organizational partners of the Colorado Redemption Campaign include Second Chance Center, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Colorado’s Office of the State Public Defender, The Powell Project and ACLU of Colorado.  

Justin Simmons, Alexander Johnson and De’Vante Bausby, activists and NFL professional athletes for the Denver Broncos, joined the campaign to highlight the racial inequities of mass incarceration and the critical need for change — especially by Governor Polis. 

“Today a Black person has a one-in-three chance of ending up in prison,” Simmons said in the broadcast ad. “For us, that would be like losing 19 members of our football team. That would be a major loss for us just as it is for our communities.” 

Simmons’ comments underscore the critical need for Governor Polis to intervene in order to save lives and undo decades of massive and ineffective carceral growth in our state. Due in part to the failed war on drugs, draconian sentencing ranges, and so-called “habitual offender” laws that disproportionately target Black and Brown communities and people experiencing poverty, we have packed our prisons at an alarming rate. Colorado now has a higher incarceration rate than any country in the world — more than Canada, France and the United Kingdom combined. These misguided policies cost families, communities and taxpayers dearly. In 2020, the Colorado Department of Corrections budget approached one billion dollars. In the process, families and communities, particularly communities of color, have been decimated. 

“We are either a nation of ‘we the people’ or ‘we the prisons’ — we can’t be both,” Johnson said. 

With a pandemic, the costs have been catastrophic and the governor’s part paramount. More than 50% of people incarcerated in prisons have been infected. There have been more than 7,000 total positive COVID-19 cases among incarcerated people, with almost 700 active cases and 25 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. Over 500 prison staff have become infected, leaving rural, prison communities struggling to meet medical needs. With limited access to personal protective equipment, adequate testing and an inability to practice social distancing, incarcerated people have had little defense against the deadly virus. Many governors across the country recognized this emergency and exercised their clemency powers to safely release hundreds of vulnerable people from prisons. Washington Governor Jay Inslee released over 1,000 people. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear released 900 people. Yet, Colorado Governor Jared Polis has released only four people.

The Broncos athletes and the Colorado Redemption Campaign call on Governor Polis to do more — to boldly exercise his clemency powers to undo the harms of mass incarceration and champion racial justice in Colorado. 

“Governor Polis, you have the clemency powers to save lives and define what redemption looks like in our state,” said Bausby in the ad. 


Watch the ad at:

ACLU of Colorado Redemption Campaign:    


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.


Return to News