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. 

Shining a Light on Detention in our Own State

On December 2, Kamyar Samimi died an agonizing death in ICE custody at the immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado, operated by the GEO Group, a for-profit prison corporation. Yesterday, after a long and thorough investigation, ACLU of Colorado released our report, Cashing in on Cruelty: Stories of death, abuse and neglect at the GEO immigration detention facility in Aurora, which not only tells Samimi’s story, but also reveals many other stories of abuse, neglect and inadequate medical care in the Aurora facility.

The demonization and persecution of immigrants in our nation has reached crisis proportions, leading to separation of families at the border, caging of children, detention of asylum seekers and deportations that rip families apart. We think of these horrors as being focused on our borders, but the Aurora Contract Detention Facility is right in our backyard here in Colorado. ICE’s oversight of these for-profit detention facilities is clearly insufficient, which should not be a surprise given the Trump administration policies of cruelty meant to deter immigrants from coming to the U.S.

We must not forget that these policies are rooted in fear and in a festering ideology of white supremacy, not in a realistic assessment of the largely positive role immigrants play in our nation and our communities. We also must not forget that undocumented immigrants have rights under the U.S. Constitution. Many Constitutional rights are promised to persons, not just citizens, including due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Our national goal should be to fix our systems of legal immigration and to create a viable path to citizenship for undocumented members of our communities, not to engage in mass detention and deportation of immigrants. Nothing justifies the cruelty of inhumane detention or policies that intentionally separate children from their parents.

Mr. Samimi’s own story is one of medical cruelty and separation from his family after four decades in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident. His death and the other stories of abuse and neglect in the Aurora detention facility are not isolated cases. Just last week an eighth death under ICE custody this year occurred in Woodstock, Illinois, ending the life of 37-year-old Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza. Detainees in these facilities are hidden from public view in conditions that are often terrible. Rarely do they have adequate legal representation. The incentives for care under for-profit detention are perverse, and even local government is often unaware of what is happening in these facilities. Our report is a glimpse inside the walls of the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, and we hope Coloradans and residents of Aurora will not look away. State and local reforms should include increased oversight of detention facilities and conditions within them, increased resources for bond funds and legal representation for detainees, and decreased local law enforcement cooperation with ICE.

Future generations looking back on what is happening to immigrants at the border and in detention today may ask us, “Did you know?” “What did you do about it?” ACLU of Colorado is determined to shine a light on detention in our own state, defend immigrant rights and bring about state and local policy change.

In Solidarity,

ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley


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