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’ 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!