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. 


Series of Inmate Deaths in El Paso County Jail Prompt ACLU Call for Investigation


November 5, 2001

In a letter to the El Paso Board of County Commissioners, the ACLU called today for an investigation to determine whether "systemic and ongoing deficiencies in the delivery of medical and mental health care" are responsible for a series of inmate deaths in the county jail in Colorado Springs.


The letter was prompted by reports of that inmate Brian Richard Bennett died on November 3 after reportedly attempting suicide in the jail on November 1. According to the ACLU, Bennett is the fourth inmate to die in the El Paso County Jail this year and the seventh to die in custody since 1998, when inmate Michael Lewis perished after being strapped to the jail's restraint board. All of the seven were pre-trial detainees who were accused of offenses but not convicted.

The series of deaths raises "serious questions about the training and staffing levels at the jail," according to Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "There are particularly serious questions about whether the jail's medical and mental health units are adequately staffed with competent personnel."


Silverstein said that the medical and security staff at a large county jail should be prepared for inmates who may be psychotic, suicidal, or seriously mentally ill or who are overdosing or withdrawing from street drugs or alcohol. "Each of the seven deceased inmates fits into one or more of these categories," Silverstein said. "The circumstances of their deaths raise serious questions whether the jail has a sufficient number of competent medical and security staff who can recognize the medical and psychiatric symptoms of this inmate population and respond in a timely and appropriate fashion."


Several of the deaths have prompted litigation. After Lewis died on the jail's restraint board, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit that ended the jail's use of the controversial restraint device. The family of Michael Lewis filed a separate wrongful death action, which was settled last April. Last May, the ACLU filed a wrongful death and civil rights suit on behalf of the family of Andrew Spillane, who died in the jail in May, 2000. The family of Steven Phelps recently filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for his death.


"This series of inmate deaths should be a wake-up call to the Sheriff's Department and the County Commissioners," Silverstein said. "If nothing is done, there are likely to be more tragic deaths and more lawsuits in the future."

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