Release Plan by Karen Campbell

Release Plan

The Release  Plan

I offer a tool: The Release Plan

I am the author, my editor is Jane White, the former chair of the English Department at Linn-Benton Community College. Photographs and design are by graphic artist M’Liss Runyon, also formerly at LBCC.

While incarcerated, I realized the lack of funding for release preparation combined with the level of education of the parolee were problems without simple answers.

I began writing this plan as an inmate, living firsthand with heartbreaking recidivism. Fundamentals such as saving money, delayed gratification, and long-term planning did not exist in the conversations on the units. It was my impression that the skills of daily living needed to become an adult, a woman able to contribute to her own future, were missing.

The Release Plan is simple and straight forward, providing access to everyone at all levels of education. I offer it freely.

My memoir Falling inspired Colette Peters to order it placed in every prison library in Oregon. The common overwhelming response of my readers is: What can be done to stop the flow in and out of prison? The Release Plan provides another layer of help.

Please contact me with questions and impressions.

Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash


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

Read more

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…

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…

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…

Read more

Wrong Karen Baker Introduced into Legal Proceedings

June 1, 2003

District Attorney, Victims and Karen’s defense attorneys can not agree on out of court settlement. Karen must submit to psychological…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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

It was just one drink after a long day of skiing, and she wasn’t driving anyway. But when Karen Campbell saw her husband, Tom, stumble as he opened his car door, she knew he’d had too much to drink. That’s the last thing Karen remembers until she wakes in the hospital days later. What she doesn’t know is that Tom and another innocent woman were killed when she was behind the wheel. That glass of wine turned an accident into felony manslaughter, and Karen was sentenced to over six years in prison. 

Falling is the gripping story of a family torn apart and of a woman who must learn to live with her fatal mistake while she navigates the uncertain and sometimes terrifying terrain of a medium/maximum security women’s prison. Karen must learn the ropes of prison to stay safe and sane while she grapples with her own guilt and the damage she has inflicted not only on her own family, including her teen daughters, but the family of the innocent woman she killed. 

Falling will make you question what you thought you knew about the prison system in the United States. Falling is part Karen’s story and part the tragic stories of the women she meets and befriends while incarcerated. Ultimately, this memoir will make you see the humanity in each of us. 


Geoffrey Riley's interview of Karen Campbell on JPR Radio - July 18, 2023

Listen to Karen's Interview on JPR Now

Karen Campbell Writes


Wilsonville Spokesman article on Karen Campbell

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 on Amazon as a paperback, an audio book and as a Kindle ebook.


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]

The Day of and Life Before two deaths
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
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."