Karen Campbell Writes

Karen Campbell Timeline

Karen Marries Tom Baker 2002

January 1, 2002
Karen Marries Tom Baker 2002

Karen Marries Tom Baker in 2002

Car accident

March 28, 2003
Car accident

Tom dies at the scene. Other female victim dies at the scene. Karen is life-flighted to Trauma Unit at Oregon Health Sciences University. Karen begins several days of surgeries for over 20 broken bones, GI rupture, lung puncture, bladder repair, dental surgery. Christine, sister and father, Sam arrive at hospital….

Read more

Karen leaves hospital and goes to rehab for several weeks

April 1, 2003
Karen leaves hospital and goes to rehab for several weeks

Christine and Sam handle Karen’s affairs, distribution of Tom’s effects and support to Karen’s daughters, Nikki and Haley. Karen leaves hospital and goes to rehab unit for several weeks. Returns home and has two more events of failure to thrive. Karen at 5’9” weighs 115#. Christine transfers Karen for second…

Read more

District Attorney is pressing maximum charges

May 1, 2003
District Attorney is pressing maximum charges

Daughters Nikki and Haley begin visiting Karen. Karen has friend or family member at the home at all times. Nikki gets driver’s license, becomes driver for Karen.    District Attorney is pressing maximum charges: Consecutive sentences for 2 victims, 10 years each for 20 years total. Defense attorneys discover another…

Read more

Mediation ordered for settlement

August 4, 2004

District Attorney changes direction three times. Mediation ordered for settlement. Wrong Karen Baker is still in file at mediation. Karen learns details of Tom’s accident one year prior to death. Karen tells mediator divorce proceeding had begun. Victim’s family learns of this detail and that Karen is not Karen Baker…

Read more

Manslaughter II 75 months

January 3, 2005
Manslaughter II 75 months

Sentencing: DA overturns mediated agreement. Pressing fro two counts of Manslaughter I, Consecutive, 20 years. Victims family choses sentence. Manslaughter II 75 months. Present: Nikki, (Haley in San Diego), Christine, her son Shane, Sam, Step-mother Audrey, Gerry, Jack, Robin and Loretta. Karen is taken to Clackamas County jail and begins…

Read more

Karen spends time in solitary confinement

January 7, 2005
Karen spends time in solitary confinement

Karen spends time in solitary confinement due to wrist in splint. Due to dire conditions of solitary confinement, Karen choses to remove wrist splint and moves to general population, faces greatest fear, the women inmates. Meets a trio of women who are the first prison “teachers”who teach her the ropes.

Read more

Transfer to Coffee Creek Correctional facility

January 17, 2005
Transfer to Coffee Creek Correctional facility

Karen and the trio of teachers are transferred to Coffee Creek Correctional facility. Karen is house on the Intake unit in a cell with another female inmate and begins the lessons of doing time.

Read more

G Unit the bottom of the pecking order

February 1, 2005
G Unit the bottom of the pecking order

Karen is transferred to G Unit, the bottom of the pecking order. It is the discipline unit, the wild wild west of the women’s prison. Karen meets the next teacher, The Alpha. Karen is moved several times over six months. Karen meets teacher, Mittens. Forms a “friendship” group Five Alive,…

Read more

Karen moves into J Unit, the honor unit

August 1, 2005
Karen moves into J Unit, the honor unit

Karen moves into J Unit, the honor unit. Meets Teachers Sinful, Angel and Blondie. Karen begins work for DMV answering phone calls. Phone call with Peter S. Participates in U of O film Behind These Walls, a documentary from Nikkis’ School of Journalism exploring skill building enterprises of inmates. Karen…

Read more

2006-2008 Classes, ceremonies, publishing Medium/Max security

December 1, 2006

Grief Recovery Workshop MHCC independent writing course PTA course PT for Canines (later in 2009 Spanish for PT’s) 4 way test contest Rotary Club Day in the Life KOIN news of female inmate. Jukai ceremony Zen precepts Newsletter publications: Dharma Rain Zen Center Stillpoint, Living Yoga Write Around Portland Class,…

Read more

Karen moves “across the street” to Minimum

October 1, 2008
Karen moves “across the street” to Minimum

Fall 2008-2010: Karen moves “across the street” to Minimum. Enters dorm living, the hive. 2008 Barak Obama is elected President of the US. Racial intrigue/celebration. Christine’s husband dies unexpectedly. Karen works in maintenance dept, landscaping grounds and general maintenance. . Meets Red Beef, a staff  “teacher”. Nikki graduates from U…

Read more

Preparing for release

January 1, 2011
Preparing for release

Jan-March 31, 2011:  Karen prepares and works on task list for release. Family has sent in an outfit to wear home. Family prepares for Karen to parole. Haley has graduated from college at USC, American Studies, early to attend. Karen sends home basics of possessions worth keeping: religious material, a…

Read more

Release from Prison

April 1, 2011
Release from Prison

April Fools Day, 2011 Up at dawn, dressed in Prison Blues for the last time. Escorted to processing area, issued bus pass and food stamp card for 50.00. Saving during prison on a cash card approx 300.00. Karen wears the color she arrived in: black, but with turquoise accents and…

Read more

Karen attends Haley’s Graduation from USC

June 1, 2011
Karen attends Haley’s Graduation from USC

Karen attends Haley’s Graduation from USC, American Studies. Meet all the friends she has made in the last six years, including the same boyfriend she met in HS. Karen realizes Haley has a whole new world of friends and surrogate parents. Christine, Sam, Audrey are more acquainted with her life…

Read more

Re entry into Workforce and Life

June 1, 2011
Re entry into Workforce and Life

Late June-August 2011: Karen moves into apartment in Portland.  Seeks employment as PTA. Is rehired by former company, begins orientation and discovers National human services will not rehire Karen with a felony. Volunteers for dress for success cutting hair. Volunteers for the Mercy Corps as advisor to healthcare  and LIFE…

Read more

Karen tells no one new about her past and begins years of self isolating behavior

October 1, 2011
Karen tells no one new about her past and begins years of self isolating behavior

Fall-Winter 2011: Everyday Karen rides the bus over the Burnside bridge, Portland’s greatest concentration of homelessness and sees women on the street she knew in prison. Sees The Enforcer a woman who was dangerous looking lost and frail. Karen tells no one new about her past and begins years of…

Read more

Karen and Sam take the trip, bucket list number one

May 1, 2012
Karen and Sam take the trip, bucket list number one

Spring/Summer/Fall 2012: Karen and Sam take the trip, bucket list number one. Sam and Karen go from Charleston SC to Savannah Georgia and eat and explore the most hospitable people in the US. Karen witnesses Sam’s early cognitive decline. Haley visits Karen. Reacquainting. The first of a series of Thanksgivings…

Read more

It has to be a memoir. Who are these women and what happened to your kids after you went in?

May 1, 2013
It has to be a memoir. Who are these women and what happened to your kids after you went in?

Spring 2013: Sam’s cognitive decline progresses slowly but steadily. Karen is not digging into friendships or dating, Nikki and Karen uncomfortable together, attempts end poorly. Karen moves to So OR. Sam finds her a job at his PT. Karen finds apt and sets up a large desk, begins to unpack…

Read more

Do I still have a home in their hearts

Atonement and Release

Atonement and Release

Falling is the story of how a middle-aged mom learns to navigate life on the Inside. Over the six years I was incarcerated, I learned how to eat a meal in 10 minutes with a spork. I learned obedience and humility. I learned lurid slang. I learned how to keep my mouth shut. I learned how to mother from behind bars, miles from my teenage daughters. And finally, I learned how to love the unloveable, including myself.

I was released from prison on April Fools’ Day 2011. The date is not lost on me. It is a yearly reminder to reflect on my mistakes. Reestablishing myself took years. I didn’t have the energy to write or reflect about prison. I was moving forward. I met some surprising women behind bars and was touched and changed by their stories. I made a promise that I would free their voices. In moments of vulnerability, we shared common grief and pain from the harm we caused by our actions. I began writing Falling four years later. When I finally opened that black door, images and memories came flooding back. One day, I saw the same Intake plastic brown sandals at Rite-Aid. I felt sick all over again. I wondered how I survived it.

It was my original intention to write a guidebook. No one had written one about women’s prisons when I needed it. I remember awaiting sentencing, wondering things like, will I get a bra? Will I have to sit behind a glass partition to see my children? Who, exactly, are the women? I took out my journals, photos, and letters from prison. I opened up a large box that held scraps of paper with the inmate women’s quotes. I picked through them, laughing and crying. I was able to see their faces and their gestures. I could easily recreate the scene. I organized the scraps into heaps and chapters that made sense but to only me. I needed help.

From the beginning, I have had two editors, Michelle Smith, and Kate Hopper. Kate called it a beautiful mess. “This has to be a memoir and you are going to have to start at the beginning and write yourself into it. That includes Tom, your daughters, your friends and family, all the people affected by the accident.” The idea shook me to the core.

I had been insulating myself by writing about the women, not me. I did not seek out friendships. I did not date for several years. If new friends learned who I was and what I had done, they would feel betrayed that I did not tell them what happened. I would be rejected and isolated all over again.

My family sacrificed lifestyles and finances for many years. We told each other I love you, but we were frail and unhappy. Something had to give. I needed to understand what they went through, all of them. I had to ask for the unvarnished truth. I approached my step-mother, Glitter, first and asked her to offer her thoughts.

“Do we really have to talk about this?” she asked me. Then, she laid both hands on the table and faced me, “Could we please talk about this?” That question opened the black door to a vortex of clarity. They have been waiting for this.


Karen Campbell Writes

Karen Campbell Writes

Karen Campbell Writes

Editor Corey Buchanan's interview with Karen Campbell
in the Wilsonville Spokesman/West Linn Tidings.

Read Karen's Interview

Karen Campbell Writes


"Falling" is available now both as a Kindle ebook and a Paperback on Amazon.


It was a beautiful spring day on Mt. Hood, Oregon. I went for one last run, my husband Tom, went to the bar. My memories from here on out come to me in snapshots. I remember entering the steamy, packed bar. I see Tom’s beautiful profile, people huddled in his glow as usual. One of the crew called out, “Get her a drink, she just did the Glade Trail!” I am hungry and want to go home. Blank.

[Read More]

Karen and Tom

I was going to prison. The judge banged the gavel, the Bailiff escorted me toward a door at the front of the courtroom. I took one last look at my family and friends. They stared helplessly. They were in each other’s arms, the victims family and mine, all in the same row. The Bailiff opened the door at the front of the courtroom, I gave my friends and family a tight smile and stepped through the door that led to another world. Karen Campbell Writes
[Read More]

Serving Prison Time

Falling is the story of how a middle-aged mom learns to navigate life on the Inside. Over the six years I was incarcerated, I learned how to eat a meal in 10 minutes with a spork. I learned obedience and humility. I learned lurid slang. I learned how to keep my mouth shut. I learned how to mother from behind bars, miles from my teenage daughters. And finally, I learned how to love the unloveable, including myself.
[Read More]

"Upon release, I called out the names of the people I harmed."