Watch Karen Campbell's Author Talk at Bloomsbury Books

Watch Karen Campbell's Author Talk at Bloomsbury Books

Watch Karen Campbell's Author Talk at Bloomsbury Books

In my town of Ashland, Oregon, our precious bookstore, Bloomsbury Books survived the economic downturn of COVID. The  Book Talks have resumed and I was thrilled to be included. It was a packed house, who doesn’t love a messy story that ends in redemption?


Karen Campbell at Bloomsbury Books

Karen Campbell at Bloomsbury Books October 10 at 7pm

Karen Campbell at Bloomsbury Books

One of my favorite bookstores — Bloomsbury Books at 290 E Main St Ashland Oregon –survived the pandemic and is thriving in Ashland, Oregon. I am honored to be selected to give a book talk on October 10th at 7pm!

Karen Campbell at Bloomsbury Books

The Art of Living

The Art of Living

The Art of Living

Two years into my prison sentence at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, I began attending The Art of Living program. The teachers, David, Beth, and Dar came in every week and taught a breathing and mediation program. The breathing program, Sudarshan Kriya, S.K.Y. is a powerful breathing technique by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath. Psychiatrists at the India School of Mental Health found that the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol are significantly lower in practitioners of the Sky breath technique and is found to eliminate stress, fatigue, and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and depression. This allows one to be calm, energized, focused, and relaxed. Even in a women’s prison! 

After the SKY breathing program, our class was led in meditation. I remember the first session as if it were yesterday. The prison had a set of yoga mats, and we were seated around David. His voice was soothing, and he smiled with his eyes. But the women were not the sort to sit quietly. They were restless, giggling and poking at one another. David had his work cut out for him. 

David still smiled. “Everyone is having their own experience. Let’s sit comfortably and close our eyes. Observe the breath,” he said. 

I sat cross legged and followed the teacher. Inhale/exhale That lady’s nose is whistling…inhale/exhale…I need to move my leg…inhale/exhale. And so it went at first. David said to put 100% into the SKY breath and I began drop into meditation more easily. The thoughts stopped racing. I felt the sensation of being underwater. I was still connected to the voices on land yet floating without wanting or needing anything. 

Two more teachers Beth and Dar came to the prison or led the class. Dar played the guitar and we chanted call and response. The inmate group grew and had committed followers including Sinful, Amiga and me. Amiga openly admitted to having an anger problem. After several months in the Art of Living program, the unit officer noticed her improvements in anger management and offered to open her cell door at anytime so she could go breathe. The Art of Living was a pathway to peace inside the prison walls and it followed us right out the gate. 

I Stand for Peace

Eleven years after release, I received a phone call during the COVID lockdown. It was David, Beth, and Dar. They had read my book and were following my website. David invited me to join the virtual SKY group. I was still a seeker, but I had to admit my breathing practice, mediation, and prayers were sporadic. I threw myself forward. David gathered us together using the same cassette recording of Sri Sri leading the SKY breath. Why on earth did I stop? My body took over, and I let go. I knew the way. I hear David’s silky voice in my head every time I do the practice. He has been with me for fifteen years. 

David contacted me again and tossed out another challenge: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was touring the USA: I Stand for Peace: Art of Living campaign. 

“Beth, and another Art of Living teacher, Donna and I are going! The closest city is Seattle, can you come?”

Seattle. Do-able. 

David kept in touch as we approached the date. After all these years, I would be sitting amongst the free people of the world and see Sri Sri live and in person. Just days before we left, David sent me a message: He had reached out to Bhushan, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s right-hand man. David told him about my book Falling which included The Art of Living. He hoped that we could meet Sri Sri and bring him a book. It was a bold request. There are so many thousands of people who follow him. And yet, an audience was granted.  Here was David’s message: ❤️🌈😃🙏We are very lucky and very blessed. David was devoted to The Art of Living and served many years. I was so happy for him.

On the day of the I Stand for Peace event, we met at the hotel and gathered in a waiting room with many others, hoping for an audience. Then, a tap on David’s shoulder, an elevator ride to the top of the building. Doors open, we walk into a large room with windows overlooking the city, and there he was. 

He was wearing white and sitting on a white couch. We took off our shoes and approached. He was smiling, his eyes twinkling. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar waved his open palm to the seats. I turned to David, Beth, and Donna. They were beautiful.

Another group was in the room. It was a young man, a success story of the Art of Living Prison SMART program. Sri Sri sat alert, listening to their story with wise eyes. Then it was our turn.

David and I stood together. I held my book.

“This is Karen. We met at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon. She wrote a book about her experience. She attended The Art of Living group and has written about it in her book.” 

The Art of Living Karen Campbell Writes It took a nudge from David for me to speak and offer the book to him. I stared into his eyes. I saw kindness and so much more. He looked at the cover: a woman falling through the sky into prison. He opened the book. I sputtered a few phrases about the women in prison Then, by divine wisdom, I stopped talking. Sri Sri continued to page through the book, reading passages, smiling. I watched this world leader, the scientist, the humanitarian, and the teacher absorb the words. Minutes went by. When he reached the end of the book, he closed it. He looked into my eyes, to the very nature of my soul. 

“It is genuine,” he said softly. I melted.

David, Beth, Donna, and I palms together, bowed out and made our way to the auditorium. We were floating. We heard the buzz of voices as we turned into the auditorium. It was a sea of colors. There was at least two thousand men and women, many of Asian Indian origin. They dressed in silks, the colors of mangoes and eggplants, all ages, from babies to grandmothers. We settled into our seats.

The program began with welcome greetings, singing, and chanting. Then Sri Sri took the stage. He spoke about the I Stand for Peace campaign, his vision: a stress-free, violence-free world beginning with each one of us, people coming together “If each person makes an intention to stand up for peace and attends to their mental health, we can make world peace a reality. Global peace is not possible without individual peace.” Then he paused.

“Where is the woman who wrote the book?” My heart dropped.

“That’s you!” David hissed. It can’t be, it’s another book, another woman.

Sri Sri scanned the crowd, twisting and smiling. “Hmm? Where is the woman I met today who wrote the book?”

“He’s looking for you! Stand up!” I rose from my chair and raised a timid paw. Shocked faces turned to stare.

“Ah! There! Come.” He motioned me forward, smiling. “Come!”

David nudged me forward out of the row. My heart! I felt wild tingling in my legs and arms, blood in my face. I willed myself to stand tall and straight. I thought of the women inmates I wrote about in Falling. I represent these women! I walked forward like a bride. I stood before the stage. He was beaming. He opened his palm and motioned to an open chair in the front row:  Reserved.

Sri Sri spoke, of the International Day of Peace: Peace lives within you. Peacefulness isn’t selfish it is your birthright. Peacefulness doesn’t mean complacency. Peace takes work. As he spoke he gestured and turned. He was playful and free. “There is a strength in peace, there is strength in calmness. There is a strength in love. You cannot win with guns, you can win with Love.”

Then the moment I had been waiting for. Sri Sri would lead us in Sudarshan Kriya and guided meditation, live, not an old cassette recording. I had seen photographs in National Geographic of collective mediation with thousands of people from all over the world, over centuries. I felt connected to the woman next to me. I felt connected to David, Beth and Donna in the rows behind me. I felt the presence of the others in the room. I closed my eyes, knowing that Sri Sri was sitting before me. I was a part of a living, breathing experience. There was shimmering energy in the room. When we opened our eyes the room had changed. I was caught up in a ripple effect of peace.

Sri Sri made a request,

“I would like to walk amongst you and see your faces.” 

He stepped down from the stage and began. It was a slow circle, crowded with the faces who longed to be close to him. Almost out of hearing, I heard him say,

“Where is the woman who wrote the book?”

Bhushan headed in my direction.

“He wants you to talk about the book to the audience, come.” I stammered a word of weak protest.

“Come.” He was already on the stairs. I followed him up to the stage. I searched for my teachers but they were lost in humanity. I tapped the mic and began. I introduced myself and told the story of the honor it was to give him my book. Then I concluded and turned to go.

“He wants you to talk about your book,” Bhushan held my gaze.

Still swept up in the cocoon of peace and joy of meditation, I spoke my truth. When I replay the speech, I hear the voices of the audience sighing and laughing. I spent years in isolation, shame, and guilt. What senseless self-absorption. Finally, writing unafraid, I finished the book. I let go, and I was freed. I Stand for Peace.

PS – The Director of Oregon Department of Corrections, Colette Peters, has read the book and requested that Falling be in every prison library in the state. 


big buck Karen Campbell writes

Big Buck

Big Buck

The Law Librarian at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility called me. (Once a felon, always find-able). But it was good news. She read my book, Falling, and wanted to do a book group for the women in the Medium/Max side who have borne the brunt of COVID with very few outside services. Big Buck

I told her that writing the book about broke me. “I had to open a very black door of my past. Originally, I was terrified of the women. But many were kind to me and I learned to love the unloveable, including myself. I promised the women inmates I would write about their tragic histories, I would humanize them. I need to ask you, did I humanize the staff of DOC as well?” 

big buck Karen Campbell writesLong story short, the law librarian put it in the hands of Colette Peters, the Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections. After reading Falling, she told the law librarian that she wanted the book in every library in the Oregon Prison system. 

My partner, Tom, (yes, another Tom, which makes it easier for my Senior moments), packed up 70 books and we went North to Coffee Creek. I was thrilled and nervous. As we approached the Grahams Ferry Road exit, I might have requested four pit stops. Alas, the mind paroles on but the crushing misery of prison lingers in the body. 

We pulled into a space near the front of the visiting center. The door opened, and out came the Law Librarian with an assistant and a cart. She was smiling. It was happening. The book would be on the library shelf. 

I wrote the book for the staff of DOC as well: Chappie, the prison chaplain, Tammy, Instructor of the Hair Design Program and Good Cop who was kind to my children. But there was one person who I wished to read the book, more than any other. It was Big Buck. If I could somehow get it into his hands he would learn what a difference he made!

Big Buck was my Maintenance Supervisor. During the winter months, the crew cleaned tools and propagated seeds around the table. Big Buck peered over his glasses listening to our chatter, and once in a while, he tossed out a question for the table:  “Who has a bank account? Who has been saving money?” There was dead silence around the table. “Who has a place to live? “Who has a substance abuse problem? 

He simply asked a question and let us work things out. The questions lingered in our heads and we began to talk about it among ourselves, eventually with our family and friends. NO ONE else from the Department of Corrections had done that. 

It falls on each parolee to educate herself and prepare to follow through with the simple skills of living in the community. But let’s face it, the women I was incarcerated with lacked the upbringing that included those skills. On parole day, we were given our medical records, a box for any prison possessions worth keeping, and three condoms. If you did not have friends or family waiting for you, you were issued a gray sweat suit and a bus pass so you would be driven off of the property. At least those of us who worked with Big Buck had done some thinking that could lead to some solid planning. Could I ask the law librarian to give him a copy? 

big buck Karen Campbell writesI looked around the parking lot, the set of Minimum Custody buildings, and the seven lines of barbwire fencing surrounding the Medium/Maximum cell block that housed Sinful and Angel. Wait a minute. Who is that by the flagpole? It couldn’t be! Is it Big Buck? I turned to Tom, my eyes swimming with tears. 

“I think that’s him! It can’t be, could it?” Tom’s green eyes were shiny. “I have to go see!” The tall man fixing the flagpole kept working but swiveled his head and peered over his glasses. I wept and stumbled over. 

“It’s really you.” I blubbered.

“I read your book, he said, still twisting the rope on the flagpole. Then he turned to me, “I read your book twice.”

“Then you know,” I managed. He was nodding, misty. 

“For all of us, Kalik, Tizzy, Blondie, Hippie Chick. What would we have done without you?” The big man shook his head. 

“Do you know now, what a difference you made for all of us? Your work mattered to all of us. You changed our lives.” I was a puddle.

“I do,” He nodded, lost in his own emotions. Perhaps he lived through years of doubt and futility, but now he knew. And he believed it. 

“Thank you,” I said. He nodded and went back to his work, doing the right thing. The book was in the right hands. I could take a day off.  


A letter from Governor Kate Brown

A letter from Governor Kate Brown

A Letter from Governor Kate Brown

January 2022: Governor Kate Brown commuted the sentences of 912 inmates who were deemed at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. The freed inmates were medically vulnerable, had completed at least half their sentences and were not serving time for crimes against people.Brown also commuted the sentences of 41 inmates who fought the historic 2020 Labor Day Fires.

Governor Brown was slapped with a lawsuit by Oregon House Rep. Kevin Mannix, the architect of  Measure 11/mandatory minimum sentencing. The measure removes the ability for judges to oversee sentencing. 

On the law office wall of this Rile-e Up Republican are two framed slogans. One reads, “Reports of my brilliance are highly understated.” The other, “Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken. 

That riled me up. I packaged a copy of Falling, and wrote a letter to Governor Kate Brown that began like this:

Dear Governor Brown,

I was inspired to write this morning after I read the article in The Rogue Valley’s Mail Tribune regarding the commuted prison sentences your signed. 

I thought two things: 

1. Finally, we are moving forward.

2. Is that dinosaur Kevin Mannix still around?

Here was her response:

Oregon House Rep. Kevin Mannix is the architect of Measure 11

A letter from Governor Kate Brown

A letter from Governor Kate Brown

January 2022: Governor Kate Brown commuted the sentences of 912 inmates who were deemed at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. The freed inmates were medically vulnerable, had completed at least half their sentences and were not serving time for crimes against people.Brown also commuted the sentences of 41 inmates who fought the historic 2020 Labor Day Fires.

Governor Brown was slapped with a lawsuit by Oregon House Rep. Kevin Mannix, the architect of  Measure 11/mandatory minimum sentencing. The measure removes the ability for judges to oversee sentencing.

January 2022: Governor Kate Brown commuted the sentences of 912 inmates who were deemed at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. The freed inmates were medically vulnerable, had completed at least half their sentences and were not serving time for crimes against people.Brown also commuted the sentences of 41 inmates who fought the historic 2020 Labor Day Fires.

Governor Brown was slapped with a lawsuit by Oregon House Rep. Kevin Mannix, the architect of  Measure 11/mandatory minimum sentencing. The measure removes the ability for judges to oversee sentencing.

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!


The Prison Glossary from Falling

The Prison Glossary from Falling

The Prison Glossary from Falling

The Prison Glossary from Falling

Big House: Penitentiary, The Slammer, The Joint, Full Custody Prison, not some soft-time summer camp. It means murderers, assailants, arsonists, terrorists, various and sundry thieves of things and identity, drug peddlers of quantity. In the Bird Man of Alcatraz days it was a rough bunch. With today’s tough on crime laws, three strikes you are out, and mandatory minimums, everyone is locked up, in the Big House. 

Bubble: A glass outpost that is assigned to a DOC staff person and sits between housing units. It is back up security/observation for the guard on duty in the units. The most difficult part of the job would be to stay awake and watch the same women day after day, just sitting and watching TV. It is a common post for the cop with a knee replacement or the cop who is accused of flirting with a sexy twenty year old inmate. 

The Cage: A chain link dog kennel, human size. It is used in Segregation for one hour of outdoor privileges. It is visible and shouting distance from the other yards and therefore proof the caged inmate is still alive.

Call-out: Posted list of the inmate’s daily schedule. For example:

Smith, Sally SID # 8888888

Kitchen 5:30 am

Kitchen 11:00 am

Kitchen 4:30 pm

Chapel  7:30 pm

If you miss a call out because you forgot to look or did not write it down, you will be written up and disciplined. 

Captain Sav-a Ho: An officer, usually a man, who blurs the boundaries of helpfulness between staff and an inmate. It may be genuine advice, however, guidance of this nature does not happen the the ugly girls. 

Carnival Clean-up Crew: Inmates trained in clean up of blood borne pathogens. Duties include mopping up blood from a cutter or a fight, and decontaminating menstrual blood, urine and feces. As a reward, the job that pays decently (for prison wages), and requires only occasional work.

Carney Rot: Toe fungus from the showers. 

Cell-in: The inmate is required to go their cell and stay there. It can be for security reasons, dayroom closure, or discipline. It is a prison “time-out”.

Cheeking: Placing medication under the tongue or tucked into the cheek. A successful outcome would mean the medication made it back to the unit for recreational use, for sale, and trade, or for storage. The medication is difficult to hide. Slitting and resewing mattresses, taping medication to the undersides of desks or bunks has all been thought of before or discussed at the yearly Mean School. Disciplinary action is swift and severe.

Chomo, Cho: Child molester or anyone with a child related crime. It can range from death and physical abuse of a child to neglect/starvation, forced prostitution and pornography. Their life is the lowest level of hell in prison. In a women’s prison, they are ostracized and ridiculed. Prison justice is carried out with a pitcher of pee flung onto their bunk during cell sanitation. In a men’s prison, their name appears in the corner of the local paper: death while incarcerated.

Con Marche: A large blue recycle bin in each unit that contains clothing that is meant to be returned to the Clothing Room. The Con Marche is a place to trade-up and improve your status and teaches an honest woman how to steal. It is against the rules to open and remove clothing from the bins, but we did it anyway. As a desirable item appears, the grab ‘n go technique is implemented and then, the inmate progresses to: grab, hide ‘n go in the chow line, grabbing extra fruit, right in front of the guard. Prison teaches all the wrong things.

Cops, Po-Po, PO-lice, Badges, Guards, Pigs, Bacon: The staff of DOC. Their preferred description is similar to the military beginning with the uniformed Officer, Corporal, Sargent, Lieutenant, Captain. The next level wears street clothes and are no longer called wardens, they are Superintendents and Administrators. 

Counting Jiggs: A spotter for skullduggery. The primary post is outside the showers so that two or more women can have hasty sex. The secondary post is lookout for a fight, typically lasting no longer than two or three quick slugs. 

Crop Dusting, Drive by: Anonymous and planned flatulence. It is used as a passive aggressive weapon to both inmates and staff who are stuck at their post, and deserve cruel prison justice. 

Cutter: Causing self harm, for the sake of pleasure and punishment, usually cutting with a lady shaver, or something even blunter since sharps are not allowed. As a consequence, scarring is dramatic. The woman who cuts becomes difficult to house as no one wants to come home to a bloody mess in a 6 x 12 for two. 

Dayroom: The living room of the unit. It includes TV’s, tables, laundry, telephones, the Call Out Bulletin Board all under the command of the officer’s podium. It is the place to alleviate the boredom of cell life. 

DOC: Department of Corrections. The Man. The power machine. Your may be right but they are always righter. 

D.R.: Disciplinary Report. Progressive discipline begins with a cell-in. A D.R is next and mean you lose your job, your honor unit and land in the hole. Any inmate can get a D.R. Oppression and obedience dulls thinking, we get careless, or perhaps we caught a cold and just want to horde and extra orange. 

Exorcist: A head-spinning punch on the jaw. Women in prison don’t just bitch slap, they square off and box. The anger of confinement is fuel for the swing. 

Fall: Arriving and beginning a sentence in prison. It is the day that creates a definitive line in your life and the life of your loved ones, life before prison and after prison. Your fall date is the question that is often asked by other inmates. It represents a measure of how much you know about surviving in a women’s prison.

Fishing: The game of passing items back and forth under the cell door in segregation. Much like billiards the game involves physics and mathematics and is often aided with dental floss. “I grew calluses on my knees from fishing,” said Miss Clever. I didn’t need anything but played just to pass the time.”

Front street: 1. A location across from the podium or some other obviously visible location. 2. To be personally revealed either by your own hand or someone else’s betrayal. For example, an inmate reveals personal facts about herself that are exploitable or you receive the Judas kiss and are put in in a vulnerable position, put on front street, also known as “thrown under the bus”. 

Flatback Ho, Top Dolla Ho, Golf Cart Ho: Flat back is a Ho who actually has to lie down to get paid instead of extracting payment from scheming or providing a John the pleasure of her company. A Top Dolla Ho is an expensive call girl. A Golf Cart Ho is just that, a woman who works the seniors and can literally work the golf courses in a cart. An interesting ‘Ho fact: When I lived in Minnesota,  a prostitution ring was busted for servicing the ice fishermen, riding on snow mobiles from fish house to fish house on the frozen confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.

Ho Bath/PTA: Pussy, tits and ass clean-up between Johns in the Shell gas station. 

Hole, Hole Time: Living/doing time in segregation. It is like falling again. It is relentlessly bright and filled with noisy bitches. 

Ho Stro: Whore street, the corner, the turf, the beat of a prostitute’s territory. In prison it might be a way to describe a swagger, “she be lookin’ like she walkin’ the Ho Stro, workin’ it and trolling for a cup of coffee.” 

In the Vest: Certifiably having a break from mental health. It is both literal and figurative. Women are placed in a restraining garment to avoid harm to self and others, mostly self. Overhead cameras cannot stop a suicide if the person is determined to swallow a spork so therefore they are required to live in a vest. According to a 2006 US Justice Department study, 50% of incarcerated women suffer from mental health issues. As a result, reaction and over-reaction in the dayroom is unpredictable. For no reason at all, a girl might swing, scream, or tear at their hair, or tear at or yours. We walk on egg shells. 

Kick-down: Share a creature comfort such as a cup of coffee to get a another person over the hump. It is a calculated risk. 

Kyte, Kyting: The written message system in prison. The inmate writes a message/request on a form and drops it into the proper delivery box. One kytes for a job, kytes for a move, kytes to be added to a church service. An inmate can drop a kyte on a DOC officer, tattling or telling the truth. The response and results are impotent.

Lifer: A person serving a prison sentence of twenty-five years or more, or to the end of her life. Life “without” means they will die locked up. Meeting a lifer requires particular etiquette. They do not suffer fools.

 

LOP: Loss Of Privileges. It is a prison misdemeanor and you are celled in. You are required to wear a lime green shirt which makes observation easier for the cops and the overhead cameras. DOC has you on the radar. The worst part of LOP status is that fact you have to wear your lime green shirt into the visiting room where your teenager, who already hates you for legitimate reasons, is waiting. 

MacGyver, MacGyvering: Based on the 80’s television secret agent who could take simple items and recycle them into weapons or survival tools. Inmates are unparalleled recyclers. Twist ties are hair binders, pen-caps are chip bag clips. Dental floss is the universal tool. Zip lock bags are utilized until they are a sieve. A Tupperware bowl was crafted in the microwave as a dildo.

Mean School: In-service training for DOC and volunteers that teaches them how to behave around the inmates. They practice rodeo take-down and cuff drills. They learn about new surveillance equipment. Mean school teaches staff and volunteers not to get too comfortable, never trust, never turn your back. It takes weeks for them to return to humanity. 

Mean Mug: A look of aggression toward another or a scowl to remind others how bad-ass you are even if it is posturing. There are all levels of Mean Mugging, from a simple “are you talkin’ to me?” to a full-on “I am going to kick your ass just as soon as you walk past the broom closet.” It requires practice in all levels of the mug in front of the mirror and saying with your eyes: “You are sittin’ in my seat, or You are on my last nerve and I’m gonna kick your ass and we’re both goin’ to The Hole. These looks are not for the Po Po, they are for the pecking order. Once released, if you are that lucky, they come in handy when someone doesn’t understand WHO YOU ARE and where you have been. 

Mugshot: Photo taken for criminal records that will follow you the rest your life. Cameras are placed above your head to avoid shadows and the result is reptilian. Your lips bow up in the center, the corners are downcast. You look like the loser you are. Super model trick: place the tip of your tongue on the back of your front teeth. It lifts the corners of your mouth into something you salvageable, after all, you will wear it around your neck for years. 

Off the hook, Off the chain: Crazy/loco, not in a silly way but a dangerous way that raises the hackles on your neck that eventually will kill you from flight or fight neurotransmitters clogging your arteries. It could be a person or G Unit. It is the crazy shit that goes on in a prison that you should never tell you family, they will not sleep at night. The burden is yours to bear. 

On the Chain: To be shackled with other women for transport/mobility. Not your finest moment. If you are lucky, there might be a decent soul to commiserate with, maybe learn some tips for survival.

Orders of Conduct: Conditions of Parole/Post Prison Supervision. These are the laws a parolee must maintain to stay out of trouble. Examples are weekly meetings with a parole officer, drug rehab, home inspections day or night. Parolees must be actively seeking employment or attending school. They must obtain written consent to travel. Failure to comply with terms can result in fines, additional probation or incarceration. Insult to injury, you have to pay for parole. 

Pat down: Clothed search. The inmate stands in the star position, the cop slides gloved hands along sleeves, ribs, back and the Playtex cross your heart region then moves onto legs, socks and finishes with a sweep at the intersection of the inner thigh and genital region. One cop told me, “I never go past the middle of the thigh. I try not to picture what could be smuggled up in there, I have to save my appetite for lunch. I’d rather not have a sexual investigation, thank you very much. Unfortunately, I need this job.”

P.C’d Up: Protective Custody status. The inmate is placed in segregation or a single cell. It’s not a loving protection. An inmate is property of the State and the State wants to protect their property. The typical P.C’d inmate is a snitch or a chomo, or someone who committed a crime so foul, it repulses the most seasoned inmates. Someone in the general population is going to hurt them. DOC keeps these little fish in a separate pool and hopes one day for a successful release into the units. Budget driven, protective custody requires expensive staffing and eventually the fish must sink or swim with the sharks.

Pimp Hand: From a hooker’s outside life, an all too common slap and worse from a pimp. Can be used as a threat, “don’t make me show you the pimp hand!” Worse than a single beating, it represents the threat of repeated physical abuse. 

Prison friends: Temporary friendships that while sustaining on the inside, are terminated upon release, every woman for themselves. The addict is the most dangerous to avoid after release because the crazy life-robbing drugs make good people do desperate things. Meanwhile, it is possible to love and laugh outright with the other incarcerated women on you unit. We celebrated birthdays, cried over children, dreamed of avocados. I met women I am proud to know. 

Punk: A legend in her own mind who will drop to her knees in cowardice to a person higher up the totem pole. The sign language is to swipe a finger across the chin indicating the residual bodily fluid after a vulgar subservient  act.

Put your foot in it: To cook food with soul, leaving an imprint. Some women just had a knack for taking crap food, sometimes expired and creating something so good the room went quiet.

Rape-o Status: Looking like such a clueless loser that you could be raped. In a women’s prison this is 99.9% more likely to be just a whopping insult.  For example, only a patsy (like me), would wear puffy, polyester red shorts, Rap-o status shorts, while the old timers wear prized thin red cotton shorts. 

Recidivists: A return to prison after release. It has to be the worst that can happen to a person, second only to the death of a child. The cards are stacked against the parolee, due to the gaping lack of support for integration back to society. For a Lifer, or a woman doing a stretch of time, it is a sickening waste of an opportunity. 

Roll up: To pack up your meager belongings into plastic bags and move. This can be good, such as going from max/medium to minimum, or earning the clear conduct to move to an honor unit. It can be bad, you broke the rules and must move down the ladder and live back in the jungle unit. It can be worse, you are shackled to the wall and lead away to the Seg unit for your gross misbehavior or it can be fatal, or might as well be, if you have to be housed in the prison medical unit. 

Skins, Strip Search, Squat and Cough: A body search down to the skin. The inmate is asked to disrobe one piece of clothing at a time, shaking out each for the purpose of exposing hidden items in rolled cuffs, bras etc., until nude. The inmate is required to lift pendulous breasts, bellies and buttock cheeks. Squatting low, the inmate is ordered to spread her buttock cheeks and cough loudly. If unremarkable, the inmate is allowed to redress. As an new inmate it is deplorable. To the seasoned it is just a part of the drill. Occasionally, staff and inmates carry on a conversation during the event. Upon reflection I gotta say, it must be worse for the cop. 

Slip n Slide: A fall in the shiny corridors as the Po Po galumphs to a fight. An event that makes an inmate happy for weeks.

Snitch, A Teller: An informant to DOC in a court of law or a rival gang. A rat, nark, fink, teller of tales who’s poor choices results in an outcast status just above a Chomo. Newbies do it because they feel a greater kinship to the cops than the criminals. Telling is an early fuck up that can last for years.   The cops see a snitch as a threat and more dangerous than a violent criminal. She will tell on anyone, including them. 

Stretch: A lengthy prison sentence, definitely in the eye of the beholder. A Lifer would dismiss anything less than four years since this means you serve 90% of your time in minimum. The taxpayer is less discriminating and just wants them to rot, for years. Put ’em to work I say, stuff political envelopes, pick strawberries. Anyone doing a stretch who is simply warehoused is a waste of inexpensive human services. If inmates feels useful and valuable, they will return as a contributing, empowered member of society. One woman’s opinion.

Tank: Holding cell in a jail or prison. It is a bare room that contains a sink and toilet combo, all surfaces can be hosed down and sanitized. Capacity is often reached, especially if it is a jail tank. Full 24 hour observation employed. It is the gate to hell. In jail it is a place to come down on drugs and alcohol. An offender in jail is still holding out for hope and a good lawyer. An offender in prison is resigned and is no longer making deals with The Almighty, now it is more of a begging for survival. The holding cell in segregation is a place that reminds you that although you have fallen and had the worst day of your life, things are just about to get worse. 

Tossed: Tossed is a cell search. A gloved cop choses a random cell and goes through bedding, drawers, shelves, shoes and clothing, looking for contraband. Some cops are thorough to to the point of testing shampoo bottles, some are just a quick scan, as in, my precious Savior, please don’t let me get some sort of disease from touching this disgusting woman’s underwear. If a guard shows up with plastic bags and gloves at your door, you are in trouble, you are moving downward and falling again.

Banner Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

The Prison Glossary from Falling

The Prison Glossary from Falling

Thanksgiving is more than the festivities, it gives us to look back at lessons we learned and the good people who came into our lives. Those of you who are graduates of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility might remember “Blondie”. We are in touch. Through her tender heart and humor, I found ways during my prison sentence to make it through the holidays, away from my family. Blondie concocted a prison granola bar recipe from the canteen list. It is a damned good treat in or out of prison. May we find ways to be grateful all year long.

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!


Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

Karen Campbell writes coffee creek Correctional Facility
Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

When I was convicted of Manslaughter II/DUI, which is a fatal felony car accident, I knew I was going into prison. It was just a matter of how long. I was desperate for information about living in a women’s prison. I lay awake at night, and obsessed by day, over the questions of prison life. How do I call my children? Will I get a bra? Will I get beat up? Is there medical or psychiatric care? The most terrifying questions were about the women inmates. Who are they and what have they done to get in there? How how do they determine which inmate will be in my cell?

I spent hours in Portland Oregon’s Powell’s Books researching women’s prisons. Orange is the New Black had not been written. Nothing existed to describe life in a full custody women’s prison. The books on men’s prisons descriptions were harsh and filled with violence and the rough details of fecal boomerangs, prison booze, and human depravity. Would I survive? How do I prepare? How do I prepare my children and family?

Recently, I received a call from a desperate mother. Her son was awaiting sentencing for a crime similar to mine. I was heartbroken for her. All his hopes and preparation for a brilliant life and career, on hold, or perhaps dashed. She told me that her son was consumed with researching information and preparing for survival in a men’s prison. He was reading my book Falling and piecing together the lessons between the lines. 

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer
I began writing almost immediately in prison.

The book Falling began as A Chick’s Guide to the Slammer. From my early days of incarceration, I wrote to make sense of my new world. I hoped that someday I could help others and their families by answering the questions that haunted me as I tried to prepare for inevitable incarceration. I began writing the chapters, the basics of prison life: Food, Cell Life, Clothing, and Visits, etc. 

Then something changed. It was no longer me vs them. Living side by side, I listened to the women’s stories borne from tragic histories of abuse, poverty, physical and mental illness. All of us had a story to tell, the women inmates, the staff of the Department of Corrections, my family, and me.

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer exists within the memoir Falling. It’s all there, from clothing, and family visits to Christmas in the klink. The women’s stories became the essence of the book. It took nine years and 6 revisions to finish Falling. It took that long to write myself into the book, warts and all. 

If Chicks Guide to the Slammer could be summed up into one phrase, it would be this:

Don’t snitch, don’t steal, don’t turn your back to the room. Own your crime, look hard at yourself and keep your mouth shut. 

Once I learned the code, I wasn’t so easy to pick off. 

Next month:  A glossary on prison slang that I learned quickly as I entered prison.

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Chick’s Guide to the Slammer
The outside recreation area.
Blondie’ Granola Bars for Thanksgiving
The chow line at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility
Chick’s Guide to the Slammer
Chick’s Guide to the Slammer
Clear Music accessories to control hidden contraband, SID#'s on everything.

Banner photo by danijel skabic via Unsplash

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

Thanksgiving is more than the festivities, it gives us to look back at lessons we learned and the good people who came into our lives. Those of you who are graduates of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility might remember “Blondie”. We are in touch. Through her tender heart and humor, I found ways during my prison sentence to make it through the holidays, away from my family. Blondie concocted a prison granola bar recipe from the canteen list. It is a damned good treat in or out of prison. May we find ways to be grateful all year long.

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!


Blondie’ Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Blondie’s Prison Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Blondie's Prison Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is more than the festivities, it gives us to look back at lessons we learned and the good people who came into our lives. Those of you who are graduates  of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility might remember “Blondie”. We are in touch. Through her tender heart and humor, I found ways during my prison sentence to make it through the holidays, away from my family. Blondie concocted a prison granola bar recipe from the canteen list. It is a damned good treat in or out of prison. May we find ways to be grateful all year long. Blondie’ Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Blondie’ Prison Granola Bars Recipe

  • One box of granola cereal
  • 2 handfuls of peanuts
  • 3 T of peanut butter
  • 4 canteen bags of carmels @ 10 each/ 4.5 oz, or in the free world, 18 oz of Carmel sauce.
  • 2 canteen bags of orange sliced candy or in the free world, 9 0z of orange slice candy
  • 4 bars of Hershey’s chocolate

Gather your crew of buddies and secure a table near the microwave. Include a Badass crew member to keep the mooches away and a Long Timer who has plastic cups and bowls. 

Chop chocolate and oranges slices with your prison ID card hanging from your lanyard around your neck. Mix with cereal and peanuts in bowl. Unwrap carmels and mix with peanut butter in a plastic cup. Heat and stir until melted. Use Badass crew member as a lookout. 

Run hands under cold water, (which is the normal water temp). Pour warm carmel and peanut butter over cereal mixture in bowl. Mix and do your best to press mixture into flat bar shape. Allow to cool. Cut with ID into bars. Add laughter. 

Blondie’ Granola Bars for Thanksgiving
Rajesh Rajput photo via Unsplash
Blondie’ Granola Bars for Thanksgiving
The chow line at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Karen Campbell Writes book Falling
Karen Campbell Writes book Falling

Blondie’ Prison Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Blondie’ Prison Granola Bars for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is more than the festivities, it gives us to look back at lessons we learned and the good people who came into our lives. Those of you who are graduates of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility might remember “Blondie”. We are in touch. Through her tender heart and humor, I found ways during my prison sentence to make it through the holidays, away from my family. Blondie concocted a prison granola bar recipe from the canteen list. It is a damned good treat in or out of prison. May we find ways to be grateful all year long.

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!


Karen Andrea Campbell in conversation with Jane White

Join Karen Andrea Campbell in Conversation with Jane White

Karen Andrea Campbell in Conversation with Jane White

Karen Andrea Campbell in conversation with Jane White

Tuesday October 19, 2021 | 7:00PM – 8:00PM

JOIN US ON ZOOM
REGISTER HERE: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84865187344

Join us for an event with Karen Andrea Campbell for her memoir, Falling: Hard Lessons and the Redemption of the Woman Next Door

This debut memoir will forever change the way you think about women in prison. Karen Campbell drove intoxicated and caused a fatal accident that killed her husband and an innocent woman on her way home from work. She was sentenced to six years in prison.

Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black shined a light on life in a minimum-security women’s prison. Falling goes beyond and tells the stories of the women inmates of the United States in full custody prisons. Through heartbreaking, lurid, and often hilarious storytelling Campbell humanizes the inmates, their families, and the staff, illuminating the way forward in prison reform in the United States.This memoir will appeal to anyone who has ever survived hardship and anyone who has had to work hard at forgiving themselves.

Karen Campbell is an American writer and advocate. She was living the American dream. Karen was a mother with two daughters, a productive career and an outdoor enthusiast until she was convicted of a felony for driving intoxicated. She caused a fatal car crash killing her husband, and an innocent woman. She served six years in a full custody women’s prison.

Karen Andrea wrote Falling to humanize the women inmates moving the issue of prison reform up and out. Her debut memoir will forever change the way you think about women in prison.

Jane White taught writing, speech, and literature at LBCC for 27 years.  Since retiring, she’s worked for peace and justice with Albany Peace Seekers and as an advocate for a Coffee Creek inmate seeking and gaining clemency.  She is grateful to have connected with Karen Campbell through her book Falling and looks forward to supporting Karen’s prison reform efforts.

For the past year, she’s been a co-editor of A Unique Poetry Legacy/Student Poet Laureates/Linn-Benton Community College, a book that highlights poetry and poets at the only US community college with a student serving as the campus laureate.  In September, a free pdf of the book will be available on CommunityArchive@LBCC.

This event is free and open to the public. Please register to get the password for the event and purchase her book here!

JOIN US ON ZOOM
REGISTER HERE: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84865187344


Karen Campbell Writes book Falling
Karen Campbell Writes book Falling

The Good Fight has Begun

The Good Fight has Begun

Kathi MCCoy, AKA Angel Boss, organized two Falling book talks that featured the people who are creating upward change in prison reform. 

In her home above the lights of Portland, Kathi/Angel Boss Invited judges, lawyers, doctors, educators, first line mental health responders, politicians, philanthropists, and householders and religious leaders to gather and listen to readings from the book that exposed the realities of incarceration alongside the leaders who are creating hope and progress in prison reform. 

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!


The Good Fight Has Begun

The Good Fight Has Begun

The Good Fight has Begun

In her home above the lights of Portland, Kathi/Angel Boss Invited judges, lawyers, doctors, educators, first line mental health responders, politicians, philanthropists, and householders and religious leaders to gather and listen to readings from the book that exposed the realities of incarceration alongside the leaders who are creating hope and progress in prison reform.  The Good Fight Has Begun

The first co-presenter was none other than the man who signed my release papers, former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. 

The goal is to develop a strategy, funding and delivery system that can effectively and sustainably move public, private and philanthropic resources upstream to address the root causes that undermine the success of children and families in our state. 

Enjoy reading John’s blog: https://blog.johnkitzhaber.com

The second presenter was Mike Wenrick, Director of Prison Development for Prison Fellowship.

Mike WenrickThe program he presented is called The Academy. Nothing remotely like this was offered during my years at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility:

The Academy guides participants to identify the life-controlling issues that led to their incarceration and take responsibility for its impact on their community. Using biblically based material, the Academy specifically targets criminal thinking and behavior, life skills, addictions, victims impact, and prosocial culture change. The Academy aims to develop prisoners who have leadership potential to serve as positive peer mentors and supporters of a positive culture-based on Gospel-centered values, throughout prison systems. Those who complete the program and are preparing fo release will have the opportunity to connect to post release resources and support in metropolitan areas.

More information here about Mike and  Prison Fellowship: https://www.prisonfellowship.org/about/academy/

Lenanne Miller of Jails to JobsThe third presenter was Lenanne Miller of All Star Staffing and Jails to Jobs. Lenanne teaches the inmates how to become reliable and dependable employees. “I tell them they have to do their very best, or they will take away the opportunity for ten parolees who come afterward.”

Jails to Jobs. It’s mission: a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping previously incarcerated and soon-to-be released men and women with the tools and resources needed to find employment and successfully re-enter the workforce.

Please learn more about Jails to Jobs here: https://jailstojobs.org/about-us/mission-and-core-values/

Ramona Mathany, CEO at All Star Labor & Staffing
Ramona Mathany, CEO at All Star Labor & Staffing

A second talk was held at the noble Racquet Club by hosted by Julia Hall, Multimedia Producer/Web Designer and philanthropist. My co-presenter was Ramona Mathany, CEO at All Star Labor & Staffing, (above) and a religious volunteer at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and represent a lifeline of humanity for the women inmates. 

Please read more about All Star Labor here: allstarlabor.com

I was humbled and touched by the outpouring of emotion from the audience in Portland, Oregon. On those nights, I could feel the shift toward the future of prison reform. The good fight has begun. 


Karen Campbell Writes book Falling
Karen Campbell Writes book Falling

The Good Fight has Begun

The Good Fight has Begun

Kathi MCCoy, AKA Angel Boss, organized two Falling book talks that featured the people who are creating upward change in prison reform. 

In her home above the lights of Portland, Kathi/Angel Boss Invited judges, lawyers, doctors, educators, first line mental health responders, politicians, philanthropists, and householders and religious leaders to gather and listen to readings from the book that exposed the realities of incarceration alongside the leaders who are creating hope and progress in prison reform. 

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!

A reason to celebrate!

One of our own has been freed, Lisa Roberts. Lisa and I served time together at Coffee Creek. Lisa was a stand-up gal in all areas of life on the inside. She revealed consistent strength of character no matter the circumstances. She will do well on the outside as she took her time seriously and applied herself first to take inventory and then to improve and grow. I am thrilled for her. This represents the possibility of a great shift in prison awareness that eventually could lead to prison reform. Thank you to Senator Kim Thatcher and godspeed Lisa!