What’s it like to be a writer in prison? Jamila T. Davis, called by the media “the woman who brought down Lehman” for her part in a multi-million dollar fraud, is a self-published author currently serving 12.5 years in the real “Orange is The New Black” facility, Danbury FCI. This is part one of our two-part guest blog post with Jamila about writing from prison, and how she has found purpose with self-publishing.
Each morning I open my eyes, I am surrounded by dreary walls that remind me of my past mistakes. For the last 7 years I’ve been locked behind bars. “Orange Is The New Black” is an entertaining outlet of escape for many viewers, but the show’s story line is my true reality. Currently, I am federal inmate #59253-053, housed at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp, in Danbury Connecticut. It is the same facility where Piper Kerman, author of “Orange Is The New Black” was incarcerated.
Prison life for me was a huge adjustment. I went from living in a luxury gated community, in a million-dollar condo that had an elevator in my living room, to a 5 1/2 x 9 prison cubicle, smaller than the size of my kitchen pantry. When the prison doors shut behind me, I was instantly stripped of all the material items that I once used to define my self-worth. Abandoned by many of those whom I admired, loved and trusted, I was forced to do some real soul-searching. Behind bars, I embarked on an intense journey to find my true self and break free from the spiritual bars that clutched me long before I ever physically landed in prison.
Trapped and away from all the distractions of the world, my journey led to many insightful discoveries. As I was enlightened to the things that count most in life, I developed a zeal to share my findings with others. Journaling daily led to me turning my writing into a book series for incarcerated women. With the help of my parents and a few friends, my first book “Unlocking The Prison Doors” was published.
Noticing that female prisoners had limited resources to address the root cause of our issues that led to imprisonment, I was able to create textbooks, workbook/journals and curriculum guides, which are currently being used in female correctional institutions throughout the country. The success of the series gave me the faith to write mainstream books.
After noticing the many injustices women encounter in the U.S. prison system, and the lengthy sentences we face as non-violent offenders, I decided to use the power of my pen to share my story. In 2013, I published my book “The High Price I Had To Pay.” This book details the events that led to my 12 1/2 year sentence for bank fraud. I was accused of being the 25 year old mastermind who defrauded the now defunct Lehman Brothers Bank in a multi-million dollar bank fraud scheme. Just 59 days after I was sentenced, the bank collapsed and its bankruptcy findings revealed that the bank was involved in massive fraudulent lending practices.
Although the truth was exposed, I was unable to get my conviction overturned. I quickly learned it’s easy to get incarcerated, but hard as ever to get out! Despite the facts or the evidence, many prisoners are held unjustly and harshly punished. Being surrounded by so many women who had similar encounters in the U.S. judicial system led me to turn my book “The High Price I Had To Pay” into a book series.
Each volume tells the story of women serving decade-plus sentences for non-violent crimes. Our books are currently being used as educational tools across the country to deter at-risk youth from crime.
My most recent release is my book “She’s All Caught Up.” It reveals the story of my early life experiences, starting out as a straight A student and an ideal “star child.” Very early in life, I graced the stage in dance recitals at Lincoln Center and toured in an off-Broadway play. All was well until high school years when I met my first love, a well-known drug dealer, and I decided to choose life in the fast lane. My lust for money, power and respect led me on a vicious cycle of poor choices, which ultimately resulted in my incarceration. In this book, I openly share my flaws and my mistakes with the hope that readers will avoid the path I chose, at all cost!
This book is written for both teens and adults. It is meant to be a reflecting glass that will spark essential conversations that will enlighten youth to the sever consequences of poor choices.
Writing has been my refuge and a means of escape from mundane prison life. The pain I experienced is harshly undesirable, which has led to my passion to do whatever I can to deter others from choosing this path. Writing has been the instrument that I have used to release my message to the world. Although my body is physically locked up, my words are free to be carried throughout the universe!
Part Two Coming soon!