Broncos players join fight to reduce prison population during pandemic

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DENVER (KDVR) — While the ACLU has been fighting to reduce prison populations during the COVID-19 outbreak since March, on Tuesday the NFL partnered with the organization, releasing a new ad to show its support.

Local NFL professional athletes are now urging Gov. Jared Polis to use his clemency powers to safely release medically vulnerable people from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Simmons, Alexander Johnson and De’Vante Bausby, activists and NFL professional athletes for the Denver Broncos, joined the campaign to highlight the racial inequities of mass incarceration and the critical need for change by Gov. Polis.

“Today, a Black person has a one-in-three chance of ending up in prison,” Simmons said in the broadcast ad. “For us, that would be like losing 19 members of our football team. That would be a major loss for us, just as it is for our communities.”

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections, 7,844 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-five inmates have died from the virus while detained.

“Even one death is too much,” said Denise Maes with the ACLU. “The place where we see the highest numbers of COVID cases are in our state prisons because there’s no such thing as social distancing when you are in that sort of congregant setting.”

Maes said she believes the most powerful part of the new advertisement is the question is presents:  “We are either a nation of ‘we the people’ or ‘we the prisons’ — we can’t be both,” Broncos player Alexander Johnson said in the ad.

“Gov. Polis, you have the clemency powers to save lives and define what redemption looks like in our state,” Bausby continued.

The ACLU claims governors across the country recognized the COVID-19 emergency and exercised their clemency powers to safely release hundreds of vulnerable people from prisons. According to the ACLU, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released more than 1,000 people, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released 900 people, yet Colorado’s governor has released only four.

“There are many people that can safely be released from prison and can once again contribute to the community,” said Maes. “Our governor should do more and can do more, and when we speak about redemption, I hope he means it.”

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