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. 

Solitary Confinement in Colorado: Costly; Inhumane

Solitary confinement in Colorado

Costly system also inhumane to the mentally ill
By Erika Stutzman
Daily Camera

In the state of Colorado, the number of mentally ill or developmentally disabled prison inmates in solitary confinement has more than doubled in about 10 years.

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections, in 1999, 15 percent of inmates in solitary confinement were mentally ill or developmentally disabled. In 2008, it was 37 percent.

Most people`s exposure to solitary confinement is from pop culture: In reality in Colorado it is 23 hours of daily isolation with no human contact. There are about 1,400 people in solitary confinement in Colorado today. They will spend an average of 16 months there, according to the department.

Solitary confinement is more expensive than regular prison — the low end of the increased costs is about $15,000 per inmate. And 41 percent of prisoners released from solitary are really released: They`re put on parole or their time has been served, they head right back into the community, rather than back into general prison population to readjust to human contact.

For the mentally ill, it is an overwhelming prospect.

Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, is sponsoring a bill that would address this issue. The proposal has the support of a coalition that includes state branches of the ACLU, Mental Health America and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

We hope the proposal gets its due: As drafted so far, the law would create a process to evaluate inmates for mental health issues, while still allowing wardens to confine people who are a security risk. It would ensure that those so confined would be put back into the general prison population before their release from prison.

It`s easy to dismiss what goes on inside prison walls if you`ve never been inside them. It`s easy, too, to take a "tough on crime" stance that is absolute in nature. People who seem most opposed to prison reform find some comfort in thinking that once a person is put in prison, they get whatever it is they deserve.

This is clouded thinking, for several reasons. Lawyers, judges and juries work out various convictions and sentences for those who run afoul of the law, even those who do so heinously. Many will be sent to prison, some for the rest of their lives, but most for various lengths of time. But none of those convicted is sentenced to a place of torture; none is sentenced to be raped or otherwise assaulted; none is sentenced to mental abuse.

A civil society is not the worst criminal`s doppelganger. It has a moral obligation to extend its rights and its humanity even to those who have broken the law. And if those individuals have developmental disabilities or mental illnesses or both, they require special care. It`s that simple.

There will still be those who cling to the rather medieval notion that humane treatment is only for law-abiding citizens. But most prisoners will re-enter society at some point. Which convict would you rather join your own community, or that of your children? The one who has been punished morally, and rehabilitated according to the laws that govern us all — or the one who has been punished, punished, punished physically and mentally within an inch of his sanity?

— Erika Stutzman, for

the Camera editorial board

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