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Press Release: Legal Advocates Urge End of Colorado Department of Corrections Involuntary Servitude Policy

Denver, CO –  Last week, lawyers in a pending proposed class action lawsuit against the state alleging the widespread use of coercive and cruel tactics to compel incarcerated people to work, filed a notice of supplemental authority with the trial court arguing that a recent Court of Appeals decision supports the viability of their claims alleging violations of Colorado’s constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude. In Lamar v. Williams, 21CA0511 (Aug. 18, 2022), the Court of Appeals concluded it could not decide whether Colorado’s mandated prison work program violated the constitution because, in addition to failing to allege mandated work programs are not therapeutic, the plaintiff also failed to allege he was forced to work. The plaintiff in the case was not represented by legal counsel.

The pending case, Lilgerose v. Polis, 22CV30421, filed on behalf of incarcerated people throughout the state details how the Department of Corrections coerces work through the threat of increased physical confinement akin to solitary confinement, additional time in prison than the person would otherwise serve, and deprivation of basic human needs such as access to family and adequate time out of a prison cell. It also argues, with expert support, that forced prison work, as opposed to voluntary work programs, is inherently non-rehabilitative. In briefing this summer, the pending litigation received the support of national and local civil rights organizations.

“It makes no sense,” said Valerie Collins of Towards Justice. “There is nothing unconstitutional about allowing people who are incarcerated to work and providing them with incentives to work, but the Polis Administration appears hellbent on compelling people to work. It is unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Press contact: Valerie Collins (720) 295-1672

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