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. 

School administrators violate Colorado law, constitutional rights by searching students’ text messages

Administrators at Monarch High School are committing felonies under Colorado law and violating students’ privacy by seizing students’ cell phones, reading their text messages, and making transcriptions to place in students’ permanent files, according to a letter sent today by the ACLU of Colorado to the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education.

The ACLU’s letter calls on the Board of Education to put a stop to the practice at Monarch High School. 

“The educators at Monarch High School need some education themselves about the law and students’ rights,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “They have reportedly told parents that their children have no rights of privacy at school, and they have declared that they can search any cell phones and read any text messages they please.”

“Monarch administrators are wrong,” Silverstein continued. “Students have legally- protected rights of privacy, and the actions of Monarch administrators are violating those rights.”

According to the ACLU’s letter, the searching and transcribing of students’ text messages violates a Colorado statute that was enacted to protect the privacy of telephone and electronic communications. That statute makes it a felony to read, copy, or record a telephone or electronic communication without the consent of the sender or receiver. The letter also explains that searches of cell phones at Monarch High School also violate state and federal constitutional provisions that forbid unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ACLU said it learned of the actions of Monarch administrators in interviews with numerous parents and students who complained about a series of cell phone searches at the end of the last school year. According to the letter, the searches began when a student accused of smoking cigarettes was sent to an administrator’s office. After a search of the student’s pockets and backpack turned up nothing, the administrator searched the student’s cell phone. He then interrogated the student about text messages the administrator characterized as “incriminating.” With names of other students obtained from the student’s text messages, administrators called in additional students, questioned them, and also searched their cell phones. With names obtained in this second wave of questioning administrators then called in a third round of students and questioned them. Transcripts of cell phone messages were placed in the disciplinary files of multiple students, the letter says.

“The law provides a lot of leeway for administrators to investigate suspected violations of school rules,” Silverstein said. “When administrators have reasonable grounds to suspect that a search will turn up evidence, school principals can search a student’s backpack and can even insist that a student empty his or her pockets. But seizing a student’s cell phone and searching text messages is a much greater intrusion on privacy. Colorado statutes appropriately forbid the text message searches carried out by Monarch administrators, and they are also unreasonable searches under the standards of the state and federal constitutions.”

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