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. 

Prepared Testimony of ACLU Public Policy Director Denise Maes on HB 1061 – Eliminate Prison for Inability to Pay Fines

Bill to be considered February 25 by the House Judiciary Committee at 1:30 pm MT

“Debtors’ prison sounds like an archaic term – some long abandoned concept from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. Unfortunately, their use is alive and well in Colorado and you don’t have to travel very far beyond the Capitol to see it.

“The U.S. Constitution and the Colorado Constitution prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay. Jailing a person who is unable to pay violates the law, and yet municipal courts across the State of Colorado continue this draconian practice.

“The ACLU conducted a 2-year investigation and discovered that many Coloradans are being jailed for their failure to pay outstanding court fines and fees, and there is no inquiry by the Court into whether the individual has the ability to pay.

“Incarceration under these circumstances is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has consistently recognized that to deprive an individual of freedom because, through no fault of their own, they cannot pay is contrary to fundamental fairness that is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

“Make no mistake: this practice exists. And persists. Most of Colorado’s largest cities issue pay or serve warrants. In our investigation, we discovered that individuals clearly lacking the ability to pay were jailed for very minor offenses: a dog off-leash, minor traffic infractions, and open container violations.

“Incarcerating the poor creates a two-tiered system of justice. The poorest are punished more harshly and, due to escalating fines and fees that attach because of late payments or non-payments, poor people pay more in fines.

“Incarcerating the poor is fiscally unwise. The taxpayer pays multiple times. First, while incarcerated, there is a cost for the County per day, per bed. Second, the Court forfeits its ability to collect the fines and third, while incarcerated, the defendant risks losing their job and may become dependent on public assistance. This is a net fiscal loss to the taxpayers.

“Our judicial system, which prides itself on equal justice for all, cannot maintain a system whereby some people pay their fines and the poor go to jail. Without question, accountability is an important aspect of our judicial system. But so is fairness.

“The ACLU urges a yes vote on HB 1061.”

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