You might know Michael Marshall as the mentally ill, homeless man killed by sheriff’s deputies in the Denver jail, but to me he was Uncle Mike. Son of John Marshall and Hattie Lee Black-Marshall, Uncle Mike was a loving man, willing to do what he could for his family and other people experiencing homelessness. He had a contagious laugh and presence that brought joy at holidays and Sunday dinners. Because he lived with schizophrenia and the stigma that goes along with mental illness and poverty, you’ll never get to meet the man I loved, but you can honor his memory by supporting Senate Bill 62.
Jails should be for people who are a danger to others. Yet, too many people like my uncle are jailed because they are experiencing homelessness, mental illness, substance use disorder, or can’t afford to buy their freedom. Uncle Mike was jailed for an alleged low-level trespass and held on a $100 bond. Because he couldn’t afford to pay the toll to get out, he paid with his life.
Many in law enforcement want things to stay the same. But the system has stayed consistent for decades and look at the results: Rev. Marvin Booker, Jeffrey Lillis, Jackson Maes, sweet Uncle Mike and too many others gone forever — and for what? The status quo might work for law enforcement but it doesn’t work for us.
For communities of color and people like Uncle Mike, the status quo kills.
We can be safe and save lives with Senate Bill 62.
This letter to the editor was originally published by the Denver Post on April 18, 2021