On July 16, 2008, Jamila T. Davis stood in a crowded courtroom in the District of New Jersey. She was accused by the government, headed by then U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie (governor of New Jersey), of being the 25 year old mastermind who devised an elaborate scheme to defraud Lehman Brothers Bank. Honorable Jose Linares sentenced Davis, a 31 year old, single mother of two, to 12 1/2 years in federal prison for bank fraud. Just 59 days after she was sentenced, Lehman collapsed, spiraling the 2008 financial crisis. After this event, the bank, which was painted out to be a victim in Davis’s case, proved to have its own skeletons. Lehman’s bankruptcy findings revealed the company “knowingly and willfully” engaged in the same fraudulent practices it accused Davis of creating. Armed with the new evidence to support her original claim, that the bank was involved in the scheme, Davis filed several motions to have her lengthy sentence reversed. She was unsuccessful in her efforts to gain relief, yet she managed to achieve success in an extraordinary way behind bars.
Davis, a 39 year old federal prisoner, who is housed at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia, is a co-founder of the WomenOverIncarcerated Movement, a nonprofit organization formed to shed light on the over-sentencing practices and disparities in sentences of female offenders. With over 22,000 loyal supporters on Instagram (@jamilatdavis), Davis utilizes her face and the stories of women behind bars to create awareness for her cause and to expose the lengthy sentences many of them are serving for non-violent crimes. Through pictures and inspirational posts, Davis paints a crystal clear picture that humanizes women in prison and shares their struggles. Some of the women featured were sentenced to 30 years, and even life, as first time, non-violent offenders.
WomenOverIncarcerated is one of the many accomplishments Davis has under her belt. Behind bars she’s obtained several college degrees, including her Associates, Bachelors and Masters. She is currently working on her PHD in Christian Counseling with a specialization in Life Coaching. She’s used her life experiences and the skills she’s learned to publish close to a dozen books, becoming a best selling author.
Davis’s memoir “She’s All Caught Up,” is a cautionary tale about her life growing up, written to deter youth from crime. She is also the creator of “The Voice of Consequences Enrichment Series,” a three book, nondenominational, faith-based series for incarcerated women. Accompanied by curriculum guides and workbooks, this series was written to help female offenders heal, recognize their potential and recapture their dreams (see www.vocseries.com).
“Reading testimonies from incarcerated women across the country about how my books have helped them heal and overcome their adversities, it has given my life new meaning. It also caused me to become an advocate for alternatives to sentencing. Today I realize change is possible for everyone, yet we need resources, guidance and support,” states Davis.
Not only has this change agent written books to empower incarcerated women to heal, she has also provided a platform for them to share their stories. Davis is the creator of “The High Price I Had To Pay” book series. Each volume features the story of women serving decade plus sentences for non-violent crimes (see www.voicesbooks.com).
Davis’s latest project is an upcoming reality show “Left Behind.” The show, which is hosted by Davis’s son, Kywuan Warren, follows the lives of children whose mothers are serving time in federal prison.
“I was eleven years old when my mother was first incarcerated. I had no clue how my sister and I would make it in her absence. Not only was she punished, we were punished too. But we made it! . . . Our show was created to show the world the pain of children of incarcerated mothers, and to let others in our position know they can make it too!” states Warren, a 20 year old college student, who is also a successful rapper and clothing cline owner.
After serving close to nine years behind bars, Davis is finally scheduled for release this May. She has several projects in her pipeline, including a docu-series about women exiting prison and transitioning back into society. She is determined to use her story and many talents to shed light on an epidemic that has caused her and her family great pain. She’s taken the cards that she’s been dealt and reshuffled them, turning her bitter lemons into lemonade. From behind bars, Jamila T. Davis is indeed making a difference!
For more information about Jamila T. Davis and the WomenOverIncarcerated Movement, please visit www.jamiladavis.com or www.womenoverincarcerated.org. To follow her on social media, visit www.facebook.com/authorjamilatdavis, Instagram/Twitter: @jamilatdavis.