NOTE: Readers are cautioned that the following letters involve themes of physical and sexual abuse.


How much time is enough for rehabilitation?

I have been incarcerated for 10 years. When I came to prison I was a very angry woman, had no feelings for how I treated others. I trusted no one, I felt unloved and alone.

I was 10 years old when I was first molested. When I was 12 or 13 years old, my brother-in-law molested me three to four times a week for a whole summer.

I was married for 39 years, and was sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused and lived with an alcoholic. I have been beaten, was forced to have sex, had pop bottles, wine cooler bottles among other items forced in me. I have been called every name you can think of. He belittled me, threatened my life. I was told if I tried to leave he would kill me. I began to believe that I was worthless, no good and nobody would ever want me. I was reminded of that all the time.

I couldn’t take it anymore and felt I had to do something, so I shot him. I felt like I lived in prison for 39 years. I never told anyone what happened to me throughout my life. I kept it inside for 50 years, letting it eat away at me.

I no longer feel helpless, hurt or embarrassed. My transformation has widened to where I can see all sides of a situation and not just my side. Through Chance for Life (CFL) I have learned conflict resolution and communication. I have direction and a purpose. I have more understanding and clarity of self.

If given a Second Look I’ll have the opportunity to show society that I am remorseful, have changed and grown. With Second Look my voice will be heard about mitigating factors that were ignored. It is an opportunity to show that the horrible choice I made does not define who I am today. I am a better person than I was coming to prison.

I’m asking for a Second Chance because I believe in growth, redemption, forgiveness and mercy. I know I have what it takes to be a peaceful, positive, productive member of society. I recognize my actions that led to Lyle’s death. I no longer act without thinking of all consequences. I think before acting and maintaining a positive mindset, managing anger without violent behavior. I understand what I did was very wrong and I know I should have just walked away and found help. I will never take the law into my own hands again.

If given a Second Look I will show society that I have utilized all rehabilitation that MDOC offers. Along with self-help measures. I will give back to the society I took so much from.

~ Carol Kopenkoskey
Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility


My testimony

Just a few months ago I (sarcastically speaking) put myself in the worst case scenario I could put myself in while simultaneously asking the governor of the state of Michigan for mercy for a horrible crime I committed. (I was) In a hole of no hope (administrative segregation) for an “incitement to riot” misconduct, which would alter my way of jailing as I was accustomed to living, and ruin any request for mercy. Mind you, this fabricated and over-exaggerated charge is one of the worst charges a person can get in prison next to murder, yet this was the hand I was dealt after 36 years of incarceration.

Here it is: I don’t deserve nothing short of mercy. I did everything in my power to discourage that. I could not believe after putting all that work for good behavior that my possibility of being considered to be rehabilitated was in jeopardy. My frustration was that I was following the Word of God and being an ambassador for Christ and after all the years of doing good and being good was now in jeopardy due to an incident that contradicted any good behavior I had established with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

I sat in that cold and lonely cell angry over everything I had done to jeopardize a perfect position to be considered for a pardon by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In that hell hole, I yelled the loudest I ever yelled, yet no one could hear me — or at least I thought no one heard me. I could not eat, I could not sleep. I kept thinking, “what I could have done differently?” Pacing the 8×10 cell replaying the problem over and over again only encouraged cursing and blessing the day I had transformed my life to do the right thing. Lost without hope, I wrote my family and told them I think this is going to seal my fate. I am going to die in prison. I figured I at least owed them an explanation since they dedicated so much time and sacrificed a lot of their lives in those 36 years of my incarceration.

As I looked to the left and to the right I did not hear or see nothing or no one nor was there anyone coming. I felt like I was in a grave just waiting for dirt to be thrown on me, (John 5:24-28, They have crossed over from death to life). What I thought was for me was really for my sins. That cold and lonely grave site was the location that God could call me, “Gilbert come out from that hole and live!” Just like Jesus called Lazarus, (John 12:43-44). Little did I know that my yelling with no physical sound had reached the heavens. There I hobbled out of the grave, wrapped up like a mummy and was physically released from administrative segregation by the favor of God on April 2, 2022 to a higher security level. Nonetheless, out of the hole.

A few months of hard time went by and on July 28, 2022, a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court was made. The decision made is that it is unlawful to sentence an 18-year-old to life without parole. I did not comprehend what was exactly taking place since my past experiences with the legal courts were always met with rejection. Little did I know all the hardships as a youth would one day be the key to a door God would heal and unlock to be physically free. All the abuse as an adult on my life that I thought were normal had incited a rebellious attitude which was the substance that God used to create a key to open a door no man could close. In the book Acts 16: 25-26, it clearly states that God had shook foundations of the prison and open one door after another. In all these years I have walked through countless doors of trials and tribulations. Now the hour is near at is states in Acts 16: 35-36, but this time I am going to open it. My life of walking through prison doors is just about over and I am grateful to Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. He has preserved me for such a time as this.

At the beginning of this tragedy, Aug. 6, 1984, I never thought I would survive whatever this was, so I ran to my father in Houston, Texas. Despite him being an alcoholic, he was my hero and savior. Unfortunately, he passed away 11 days after I committed this horrible murder, on Aug. 17, 1984. My world was crushed, and I never thought I would ever live through it. It felt as if I compromised my father’s life and my life for Tom’s life (victim). I never had a problem accepting the natural life sentence because I knew I was responsible for taking Tom’s and blaming myself for the loss of my father. If I died in prison, then so be it. I deserved it. Even though it took years for me to transform completely to the will of God, I lived each day as if it were my last. And at last unwarranted grace by Jesus in Heaven and man on earth I may get the second chance to live in His mercy. I did not get the chance to tell my father goodbye or see him laid to rest in 1984, but in 2023 I can tell him in a prayer, “Dad I have survived. I have made it”.

~ Gilbert Morales
Oaks Correctional Facility


Justice isn’t blind

All my life I have heard people saying how unfair the criminal justice system was. Long conversations and drawn-out arguments from intellectual and lay person alike have been had all across America; at family reunions; at the dinner table; around the water cooler; in the break room; in a card came; playing chess — the only thing they all seem to have agree on was that once the system got ahold of you, it never let go.

The only person real enough to tell the truth was Judge Judy when in the opening credits on her show, Lady Justice peeked from behind the blindfold. That’s real right there. Justice is not blind. However, when I got to prison, I quickly learned how the self-righteous saw each and every one of us as CRIMINAL. There was no possibility of mistake, over-prosecution or innocence — NO, we all were guilty and second-class citizens unworthy of common courtesy or decency. We are treated as trash.

I, myself, had an abusive ex who was told where I lived by my aunt. She wanted both of us over for Thanksgiving dinner. She thought and was very vocal about her belief that he was the best thing that happened to me and that it was my selfishness and a dire mistake to leave and move away to suburbia. However, I knew I was safe in suburbia. Police came quick here. Maybe that’s why he got me back to Detroit before the facade dropped and the real man stood up. I refused to go inside his house. We were going to my aunt’s — why stop at his house? We fought. I struggled and a gun fell from his pocket. The same gun he threatened me with months ago that sent me on the first thing smoking to suburbia. I dove — I say — I dove on it and shot once. The prosecutor says I fired multiple shots. A bullet grazed his finger, chin and one entered his shoulder where it ricocheted. I ran. I never fired a gun before. I now have life.

~ Krista Gladney
Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility