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. 

When Reform is Not Enough: Why we must reimagine safety

She was just sleeping in her bed, I think to myself. Even when we are resting  . . . we are not safe.

This past Wednesday, the announcement that the Louisville, KY police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor would not be charged for her death left a numb feeling in my stomach.  News like this always hits hard, but gone are the days of expressed fear, disappointment or even rage. Nothing is more painful than the realization that the U.S. criminal legal system, a system heralded by historians and scholars as progressive, is not designed to protect those who do not reflect the Framers who created it: white, wealthy and male. Anyone outside of this image has faced centuries of genocide, enslavement, police violence, and forced hysterectomies — the grievances are endless.

Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, I have witnessed this inexplicable wash, rinse and repeat cycle that Americans go through. First, we witness senseless deaths of Black, Brown and Indigenous men, women, and children at the hands of law enforcement. Then we are “shocked” and “outraged,” asking ourselves, How can this happen here? We demand justice and fairness from a system that is designed to protect property over the lives of people who used to be considered property in this country for 246 years. We ask for police reforms. Then we hear the news that another prosecutor will not press charges against those who take life without due process. We become numb. But then, we forget and we move on with our lives, while those who have lost their neighbors or loved ones are left holding nothing but a hashtag.

At its root, policing is designed to uphold systems of oppression, whether that be on the basis of race, wealth, disability, gender and/or sexuality. Over the summer, we have witnessed the pervasive racism that continues to plague our criminal legal system. We must reimagine our system of police violence and mistrust and replace it with alternative, civilian-led services that ensure public safety. The struggle to shift our dependency on policing is not new. We must honor the work of abolition activists like Angela Y. Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore and their creation of Critical Resistance to educate those willing to listen about the implications of the prison industrial complex and calls for the divestment in the militarization of our police departments. For years, mostly Black activists have called for investment in our communities with services to support those who are unhoused, dealing with addiction and/or experiencing a mental health crisis. Calls that have grown even louder during a pandemic.

At some point, we have to say enough is enough and build a new vision of safety, one that keeps all our neighbors safe from state-sanctioned violence, and not expand the role and power of police departments. A vision that allows the Elijah McClains to walk to a nearby convenience store to buy a sweet beverage, even when wearing headphones and hoodie, and allows the Breonna Taylors to lay in their beds at night after a long day at work with thoughts that they have time to realize the life goals and dreams.

At the ACLU of Colorado, it is our mission to protect and defend the lives of everyone in this state. Part of this mission includes educating our supporters about what is at stake when we continue to watch systems operate like it’s business as usual. As part of our response to this current moment of reckoning, we invite you to join us for a three-part webinar series to discuss the origins of policing and why calls for reform are not enough to eliminate discriminatory enforcement practices. Learn why we must redirect resources away from draconian police departments and toward services that are responsive to addressing our neighbors’ needs. Together, we can demand revolutionary change from our local officials that promotes community safety without dependence on law enforcement.

If you would like to participate, please register at People Power.

There was a time in our history where people could never imagine a world without chattel slavery. Yet here we are. Unfortunately, we have replaced that despicable system for other cruel systems: mass incarceration, predatory lending, and the school-to-prison pipeline, to name a few. It’s okay to have hope for a better future. But it’s going to take more than hope to reimagine a world that will keep my loved ones and your loved ones alive, safe and well. It’s okay to demand revolutionary change to make that happen. Because Black Lives Matter. My son’s life matters. Your mom’s and dad’s, brother’s, sister’s, and neighbors’ lives matter.  Join us to lift up those fighting for a new vision of safety for everyone.

– Jessica Howard, ACLU of Colorado Racial Justice Campaign Coordinator


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