What if through a single foolish act you lost everything in life that gave you home, comfort, and security? But before you can rebuild a new life, you'll first need to survive six years in prison. Falling is an insider's view of a full custody women's prison. It is not a tell-all memoir. It is a tool for prison reform. The purpose of the book is to humanize the inmates, their families, and the staff, illuminating the way forward in prison reform in the United States of America.
The New York Times bestselling Orange Is the New Black shined a light on life in a minimum-security women's prison. But Falling is not Orange Is the New Black; it goes way beyond it. Falling is a story of redemption and forgiveness, friendship, and healing. This memoir will appeal to anyone who has ever survived hardship and anyone who has had to work hard at forgiving themselves.
Karen Campbell drove intoxicated and caused a fatal accident that killed her husband and an innocent woman on her way home from work. To this day she does not remember the accident. Falling begins the day she walks into jail, the first step of her prison sentence. Her greatest fear was the woman inmates. Who were they? What did they do to get locked up in a full custody prison? How did they decide who would be in your cell? Would she survive prison?
The story begins with the walk into an overflowing jail cell, the first step of the six-year prison sentence. From the first days, Karen reflects backward to her husband who died in the accident, and her children whose lives were ripped apart. She reflects back on the sentencing and believes in the law, and that it was fair.
We follow her forward through strip searches, slamming doors, and granite-hard surroundings as she moves from jail to prison and meets the women she feared. The inmates surprise her with kindness and generous advice. The reader is led into the cramped cells, parched yards, and turbulent dayrooms where she meets the inmates of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. After gaining trust and with their permission, she records the stories of the women inmates. We meet The Alpha, who takes Karen under her wing, Mittens, the fighter, a survivor of an abusive childhood, Sinful, the lifer, who only sees the night sky during a fire drill, and Blondie, a fellow mother of teenage children. We meet the staff of the Department of Corrections who day after day, year after year, stand and on hard floors balancing burn-out in a "never weak" work environment.
Falling follows Karen's sentence as she moves from the Medium facility to the outdoors and single fence lines of the Minimum facility. More characters are introduced in stories of fights and sex, prison food, pen-pals. She sits side by side with women of all ages, races, and religions as Barak Obama is elected President of the United States. We see Karen's desire for personal growth and accountability as she begins to explore religious and educational programs. But as she dares to open the black door of emotional recovery, she still fears for her survival in prison if she is perceived as weak.
Meanwhile, Karen's family relationships are strained with exhaustion and grief. Karen paroles to the stark realities of an ex-felon. She throws herself forward re-establishing herself, not wanting to burden her family. She does not make new friendships and isolates with shame. Finally, in 2020, nine years after parole, she is still rewriting the last chapter, searching for a better ending. On the final pages, an emerging thought comes close, it is dark and terrifying. "I'm damaged. In a break-through moment, Karen Campbell sees she lacked confidence and self-worth. Her family had loved her all this time. The crushing weight of prison was gone. "I am not perfect but I am included and I am worthy." Karen didn't survive to suffer, she survived to do something good.