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….

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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,…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Hippie Chick My First Friend

Serving Prison Time

Serving Prison Time

I am looking down at my body as if I’m in a dream. I am dressed in jail scrubs sitting on a hard cot in a solitary cell. “I am an inmate,” I say out loud just to see if it was true, perhaps I would wake up and the accident had never happened. I look at my hands with my mother’s blue veins, one of them is in a wrist splint from my last surgery. As a result, I am housed in solitary, not because the Department of Corrections felt sorry for me but because I was now State property and they did not want their property damaged. 

Serving Prison Time
Solitary cell confinement

I saw a single cell as a chance to collect myself and a place of safety from the women inmates whom I feared more than anything else in prison. The cell was approximately 6×10 and held a metal cot with a plastic one-inch mattress, a square of foam for a pillow, sheets, and a wool blanket. In the corner was a stainless steel sink and potty combo, overhead was a camera. The door had a passing slot and a narrow window that looked out at a blank wall.

Sitting on the hard cot, I thought of Tom, his smile, his exuberance, now extinguished. I thought of the innocent woman I had killed. I am alive and they are both gone. I dug my thumbs into my eyes and squeezed them shut, trying to remember. I read the accident report like anyone else, horrified by the details. I thought of my daughters, What were they doing and thinking at this moment, knowing that their mom was in jail and on the way to prison for six years? Who will I be when this is over, will they still want me?

Minutes or hours later I heard the sound of keys in the hallway. Then, a jarring rap on my cell door. “Shower time!” keys jangled in the lock and the door opened to a dour, formidable female guard. She led me to a cold tile room and stood by. I wondered whether I was to be naked in front of people for the next six years. I looked down at my body under the stream of tepid water and noticed that some of my scars from the accident were starting to flatten out. Seven surgeries left me looking like a railroad yard. Scars crisscrossed my legs, ribs, torso front and back. I had them on my face. I had been shattered to bits and patched back together. But the surgery to correct my back and pelvis had failed and now I was crooked. I had to wear a heel lift in order to stand straight but the deputy took it away in the strip search. I knew the fact I could stand at all was a miracle.

Serving Prison Time In the march back to the cell, I asked my captor the time, she said it was 7:20 p.m. My guess was off by six hours. My thoughts were disorganized under the 24-hour fluorescent lights. I sat or paced, four steps and turn. I lied on the cot and stared at the stains on the ceiling. I slept but woke up exhausted. I could not tell if it had been ten minutes or ten hours. I could hear the voices of women in the cells nearby. One woman was moaning rhythmically, another bursting out foul curses, many I had never heard. The voice closest to me barked out complaints, “Let me outta here, I got rights! When’s my phone call?” She wore herself out with unimaginative cursing and switched from anger to grief. She cried so hard it sounded like she was choking. She whimpered and went quiet.

Solitary did not give me solitude. I felt like I was losing my mind. Anxious to get out, I removed my brace and rolled my wrist around. I tried turning on the water, I lifted a corner of the mattress. Good enough. I practiced a fib and told the nurse I was done with the brace. The nurse didn’t raise an eyebrow, one less lunatic on her beat. She opened the door and I stepped toward my greatest fear in prison.


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.

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