Karen Campbell's Writing Blog

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Karen Campbell's Writing Blog
Karen Campbell

Karen Campbell is an American writer and advocate. She was convicted of a felony for driving intoxicated, causing a fatal car crash killing her husband and an innocent woman. She served six years in a full custody women’s prisonKKaren Campbell’s Writing Blog

Karen’s blog explores the gritty details of her experiences including the day of and life before the fatal car crash; her serving prison time; and her ongoing atonement since her release from prison.

This blog follows the story of how a middle-aged mom learned to navigate life on the Inside of a prison. Over the six years Karen was incarcerated, she learned how to eat a meal in 10 minutes with a spork. Karen learned obedience and humility;  learned lurid slang. She learned how to keep her mouth shut. She learned how to mother from behind bars, miles from her teenage daughters. And finally, Karen learned how to love the unloveable, including herself.

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.

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?” 

Long 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. 

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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. 

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The Prison Glossary from Falling

Last month’s newsletter, Chick’s Guide to the Slammer brought up some heavy questions. I followed the Minnesota Kim Potter trial of the officer who shot instead of tasered Duante Wright and said to myself, “I remember the fear of going to prison.” Even if she is a police officer, she’s gonna need a guide book that tells the truth about living in prison. This month’s newsletter is The Glossary from Falling. It delves into the details of prison life through slang, descriptions and events unimaginable in the outside world.

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Chick’s Guide to the Slammer

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. Would I get a bra and most importantly, who was going to be in that cell?

Orange is the New Black had not been written, nothing existed to describe life in a full custody women’s prison. Would I survive? What could I do to prepare? Who will I be on the other side? Most importantly, Who were the women, and what did they do to get in there?

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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.

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Join 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

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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.

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Kindle version of Falling on Sale from Sept 1 to Sept 8

Celebrate Mother's Day and warmer weather, hopeful days ahead! Here's a sale on Falling. Think of it as a beach read with the grit of the sand. Please Enjoy a 50% Discount on the Kindle version of "Falling" from May 9th through May 16th

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Ashland Tidings Interview by Tammy Asnicar

Ashland resident Karen Campbell spent six years in prison for vehicular manslaughter, and she hopes her book about the experience will help humanize female inmates.

“The metal doors of the jail crash open, my ears ring, my teeth rattle, and the hairs stand up on my arms. The noise screams, ‘You are not free, you are here for punishment and this is your life now.’ We step into the jail and the doors slam shut behind us. That’s why it’s called the Slammer.”

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Prison Pipeline Interview with Karen Campbell

If you missed the radio broadcast on KBOO, below is the link to listen to the Podcast version.
Emma Lugo, the interviewer, is a grand humanitarian. I did my best to keep up with her. Please give it a listen!  

All my Best,
Karen

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Kindle version of Falling Half Off Until May 16th

Celebrate Mother's Day and warmer weather, hopeful days ahead! Here's a sale on Falling. Think of it as a beach read with the grit of the sand. Please Enjoy a 50% Discount on the Kindle version of "Falling" from May 9th through May 16th

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One of our own has been freed: Lisa Roberts

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.

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Gratitude in Springtime

Tenderly, with Bambi steps at the clearing, we reenter the world, hoping for herd immunity. The world has learned the circumstances of confinement: isolation, impatience, and futility. And yet, through simple mindful tasks, we find purpose. We emerge grateful to the loved ones in our lives.

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Karen Campbell Interviewed by Claire Rogers of ITopia Podcasts

Claire Rogers of ITopia found me all the way from London, England. My book Falling was of interest for its grit, tenderness and redemption.

In our first discussion, I could tell I was in the presence of a humanitarian. I trust her with the tough questions about the prison experience of a female inmate in the United States.  If laying myself bare in the podcast provides help and change, I am on the right path. 

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Falling eBook and Paperback Available on Amazon

I am thrilled at the response to the December release of the eBook version of Falling. I have heard the pleas for a physical book. I know how important paperback books were for me while I was incarcerated. And so the paperback version of Falling is now available for immediate shipping  And please take the few moments it takes to leave a customer review of Falling when you navigate to the very bottom of the Amazon Falling page and then click on Customer Review.

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Back in the Saddle

After I moved “across the street” from the dark prison block of the medium/maximum side to the single fenced Minimum facility, I received at letter from a paroled bunkmate describing a downhill bike ride. It was the first time in years she went faster than a walk. My heart fluttered in a flash of fear. Then I saw me on the bike, out of control, picking up speed. All at once, I am in a pale blue car with large windows. It is unlike any car I have been in. I am riding in the passenger seat. We are going faster, too fast. I feel my throat close, dread. There is an impact. The car is flying through the air, twisting to my side. I am about to land. I snapped out of the vision. My knees buckled and I sat abruptly on my bunk.

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Symbols can help us and haunt us

Symbols can help us and haunt us. We all have them. Maybe they have power over our memories because they live in the body as senses. 

I had been out of prison for about a year and a half. Sometimes I go without thinking back on prison for two days in a row. Other times it was a matter of hours. I was beginning to lose the shuck and jive of an over apologetic felon. The Ex-Con stamp on my head was fading. In a simple human encounter with a waitress, she looked me in the eye and said, thank you. I stammered out a rusty your welcome.

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While We Breathe We have Hope

Three years into my six-year sentence at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon, Barak Obama was elected President of the United States. I watched the election results and the acceptance speech sitting in a packed dayroom of my unit. The crowd was a cross-section of races, ages, and backgrounds. Together we watched as a father, a husband, a trustworthy leader promised change. 

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The Risk of COVID-19 While Incarcerated

I am worried about the women I met in Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and how they are coping with COVID-19. My favorite cellmate, Sinful used to say, there are worse things than going to prison. You could get sick and die in prison.  The Risk of COVID-19 While Incarcerated

Studies in Oregon, where I served my sentence, have shown that Oregon has one of the largest senior inmate populations in the US and has higher rates of health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiac conditions.

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Prairie Home Companion Poem The Race

It is National Poetry Month. This month I would like to honor the poet Sharon Olds with her poem called The Race. I heard this poem while walking the prison yard, listening to NPR's Prairie Home Companion Show. The poem spoke for me and my yearning to be free while my father was still alive.
Finally, after six months in prison, I earned clear conduct and was eligible for the class. The teachers from Living Yoga went into the darkest places to teach: prisons, rehab centers, jails, and juvenile detention centers. 

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The Prison Library

One thing that I knew would help me get through the days and years was a book. Now that I was off Intake, I could check out a book from the prison library and read myself to sleep. As a child, I had started with A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh, grew up with Ponyboy from the Outsiders, diversified as a curious young adult with Anais Nin, later I fell in love with David Sedaris and Garrison Keillor.

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Hippie Chick My First Friend

I was new to prison. I didn't trust anybody. I was out for my one hour of yard time and saw the woman I sat next to in church the night before, Hippie Chick. She was the first person I met in prison that didn't scare me. I walked over, hoping she would remember me. 

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Learning the Lingo

Slamming doors, bright lights, overhead cameras, badges, cuffs, and 900 women inmates. Nothing in life had prepared me for a harsh wilderness. Prison had its own raw language. The day I fell, I realized, I better learn the lingo quick. 

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My Fairy Godmothers in Prison

My greatest fear of going to prison was the women: murderers, thieves, hookers and drug addicts. In the months before sentencing, my oldest daughter, Nikki said, “You are like Keiko the Whale, raised in captivity and released to the wild.” I worried I'd be eaten alive. 

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There is nothing else I can do

I am a living miracle. I broke over twenty bones in the accident., including my face and teeth. I lacerated my spleen and GI tract, bladder and punctured a lung. I was put back together in a trauma hospital. The surgeries began on the night  the helicopter arrived on the roof  of the hospital and continued for days afterward. The medical file was Bible thick.

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Karen Campbell’s Writing Blog

Karen Campbell’s Writing Blog