I was sentenced to six years in a Maximum/Medium/Minimum prison in Oregon in 2003. When I was in jail, waiting to be transferred to prison, I met an unforgettable trio: Silver, Tizzy and Buzz Cut. Tizzy said, “Look, Karen, don’t think you’re cleaner than the rest of us. You killed people straight and simple. The women in there have been in and out of prison, taken every drug and stole or hooked for her habit, but they will look straight at you and say, ‘Well at least I didn’t kill anybody.’ The sooner you get over yourself, the better you will get along in there.” “Yeah,” said Buzz Cut, “You gotta own it. Introduce yourself by time and crime. No one wants to hear a sad story of innocence. They just want to make sure you’re not locked up for committing a crime against children. Here’s your speech: ‘I’m Karen, I’m here for a Man II/DUI car accident. I got six years, no good time, no programs.’” It was a speech that I learned and learned to accept over the next six years.
Prior to the accident, I could have been your neighbor. I was a mother, a professional, a community volunteer. Always a storyteller, I began writing as a way to connect from my prison cell. My writing has been published in Voice Catcher 2, 4 and 5, and in the Zen publication Stillpoint and Living Yoga publications. Since release from prison, I returned to my career as a Physical Therapist Assistant. I’ve resumed community volunteering, including an advisor for the Mercy Corps Reentry Center, a volunteer teacher for Living Yoga, and a volunteer Cosmetologist, a license I received in prison. I spend my free time gratefully with loved ones, both human and canine, in the beautiful Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon.