The Circle Game

Mark Seibel was, technically, a fugitive from justice when I met him at a westside Starbucks last summer. He was also the first fugitive I've met who had his own MySpace page. Homeless at age eleven, in and out of the juvenile and then adult prison system with diagnosed but untreated mental illness, he'd failed yet another parole and was just waiting for the Man to find him and take him back. His story was one of many examples of the profound neglect of the mentally ill in Colorado's prison system explored in "Head Games," in the Sept. 21, 2006 issue.

Seibel was arrested shortly after our interview. Now a letter arrives from one of Seibel's longtime supporters -- and the mother of his son. The news is not great, but it's the kind of thing Governor Bill Ritter and the legislature ought to be hearing as they ponder the mess of our prison system and the revolving door of parole.

Read on below for the details. -- Alan Prendergast

I have known Mark Seibel since he was almost 15 years old. I am the mother of his 16 year old son.

I met Mark when we were both teenagers with typical teenager issues.

In hindsight, I only now realize that Mark was not a typical teenager. He was a little boy, who was very much alone.

Often times he would be wearing blue jeans with huge holes in them, a t-shirt, and a pair of boots in the middle of December.

What he needed then is much the same as what he needs now. I suspect, as your article suggests, that there are many others out there with stories as sad as Mark's.

Mark fell through the cracks of more than one complicated social system. It was so painfully obvious even when he was young, that he needed mental health care.

Mark is a product of the Colorado Prison System. His kind are mass produced and released extremely ill equipped to perform to the standard in which the state of Colorado sets before them.

I remember the last time he contacted me for help after being released. He was "let out" of prison with almost no money. The terms of parole were so strict, that he probably should've just stayed in prison instead of wasting tax payer dollars and everyone's time.

He didn't even have enough money to pay the week's rent that was required in advance to sleep in a very seedy motel, where street drugs are basically the most popular form of currency.

Without money for rent, food, and a first paycheck (from a job he was reqired to get) weeks away....he turned to me.

I remember thinking then that "nobody cares." They see this guy, so rough around the edges and indeed to his core, and they assume he's dangerous, or not worth helping.

What the prison system does to inmates, is what we all let them do to them. We look away. There are so many people in prison; who could stand up to that?

What people fail to realize is that not everyone in prison is a hopeless, heartless danger to society.

In Mark's case, he's a much bigger danger to himself than to society. I challenge anyone to sit with this man for 15 minutes and walk away not knowing how intelligent and strong and sincere he is.

When you are hungry, I mean really hungry (which most of us have never been)you will steal food. When you're cold you will find warmth at any cost. You will preserve yourself.

What Mark has been through is partially self inflicted. However, quite a bit of it, has been a direct result of a form of prejudice.

Mark was neglected and forgotten by his parents at so young an age that he never even learned the basics about functioning as an adult.

He was a coatless child wandering the streets in the dead of winter. He was neglected and forgotten by our Social Service system.

He was an adult wandering the streets of Denver doing what life tauht him to do...survive.

Mark is a survivor if nothing else. He will survive no one really caring about him, he always has.

I spoke to him today and he was going to see his parole officer who was angry with him for missing an appointment with her. The only thing is, Mark did show up. His parole officer's receptionist sent him home because he had a terrible staff infection on his back.

There is a possibility that he will go back to jail for this infraction.


-- Brandi Williams

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts