By Deborah Richardson, Executive Director
As I look ahead to my third year serving as Executive Director of the ACLU of Colorado, I reflect on our many accomplishments during my tenure. One of them was the development and launch of our new strategic framework, The Road Ahead. December 7, 2023, marks one year since we all got on this road together to make Colorado the most just and equitable state in the country. With this framework, we are determined to dismantle systemic inequality, taking great care to center racial justice, immigrant justice and Indigenous justice as strategic imperatives in our efforts. I am proud to say that we have hit the ground running. With all our departments — Legal, Advocacy, Communications, Administration and Philanthropy — collaborating intently in an integrated advocacy model, we will continue to push the needle for social transformation.
Our strategic framework focuses on three key issue areas:
- Systemic Equality, repairing the harms of systemic racism;
- Smart Justice, building alternatives to policing, prosecutions, and prisons, and shrinking the criminal legal system; and
- Privacy and Liberty, protecting individuals’ rights under Colorado law against government overreach and threats from advancing technology.
Here are some examples of how The Road Ahead has shaped our work within its first year:
Systemic Equality – We are increasing opportunities for Fort Lewis College students in Durango to influence our state legislature and take local action on housing issues, which disproportionately impact Indigenous students, via our PEAK (Public Education, Activism, and Know your rights) program.
Smart Justice – We ensured that people with substance use disorder are not further criminalized by working with coalition partners to stop the proposed state legislation known as SB23-109, which would have categorized accidental overdoses as “drug-induced homicides.”
Privacy and Liberty – We fought against an unconstitutional banishment order that violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression of a vocal critic of the Woodland Park School District leadership. After we sued the district, the district’s leadership admitted they were wrong and lifted the banishment against our client. The ACLU lawsuit ensures that others concerned about public education in Woodland Park will not be intimidated into silence.
For 70 years, the ACLU of Colorado has worked to dismantle inequitable systems by protecting civil liberties and advancing civil rights for all Coloradans. This is not achieved through a single lawsuit or in one legislative session, but rather through strategic and sustained efforts. With you at our side, we can achieve systemic transformation and protect our democracy for all Coloradans.