Deborah Richardson, ACLU of Colorado Executive Director testifying on a bill to reduce criminal legal involvement for young children in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

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By Deborah Richardson, Executive Director


I recently reached a milestone — completing my second year serving as Executive Director of ACLU of Colorado. During my tenure, we conducted a statewide listening tour to hear what issues matter to Coloradans and adopted a new three-year strategic framework, The Road Ahead, which will leverage our tools of litigation, legislation and advocacy.   

In creating our framework, we started with the goal in mind — that Colorado would become the country’s most just and equitable state. This ambitious plan comes at a critical moment when our country is experiencing unprecedented threats to our democracy.  

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 current and future work since its launch.   

One way we are working toward Systemic Equality is by challenging Denver ordinance CB23-0373. This ordinance gives the city new expansive powers to aggressively seize and impound parked cars if they show any signs of disrepair. This poses a risk to the health, safety, stability, and dignity of people in Denver who rely on their vehicles for transportation to work or as shelter.   

Among our many actions on Smart Justice, we have worked in coalition to stop SB23-109. This bill would have identified accidental overdoses as drug-induced homicides. Similar laws in other states that criminalize overdoses have been proven to increase overdoses rather than prevent them. This bill was vigorously opposed by a coalition of public health professionals, mental health and substance use providers, harm reduction experts, criminal legal reform advocates and Coloradans directly impacted by the overdose crisis. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team and partners, this bill did not advance in the House Judiciary Committee.  Together, we ensured that people with substance use disorder are not further criminalized and advanced our vision where all Coloradans have access to the healthcare they need to thrive.

And to work toward our goals for Privacy and Liberty, we will raise public awareness and support for digital privacy via a public education campaign to inform Coloradans of the rights that are protected by the Colorado Privacy Act. Through this program, we will create a venue for Coloradans to understand data privacy and why it is important.

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, ACLU of Colorado will continue to take bold steps in the long-term fight for justice for all.