An interview with Jamila T. Davis, a federal prisoner sentenced to 12 1/2 years, who took her pain and turned it into purpose. From behind bars she creates a media empire to bring awareness to the epidemic of women & prison.
Women & crime is a popular topic on television. From hit shows such as “Orange is the New Black” to “Empire,” fearless women are depicted and idolized for their courage to overcome adversity, becoming household names. Yet these captivating storylines are based on fiction. Now here’s your chance to experience the real deal! Meet federal prisoner #59253-053.
Please introduce yourself to our audience and explain how you landed behind bars and received such a lengthy sentence.
My name is Jamila T. Davis. I am a 39 year old, single mother of two. I grew up in Jamaica-Queens, New York, during the 90s. A lot of my friends were in the hip-hop music industry. I got involved in financial services and started helping them improve their credit to obtain cars and houses. I was successful in this field and branched out into real estate investments, becoming a multi-millionaire by the time I turned 25 years old. As my clientele increased, I decided to invest in large estates in Alpine and Saddle River, New Jersey. The goal was to buy, fix and sell these high-end houses to my celebrity clients, which expanded into professional sports figures and entertainers. My plan was solid, yet I opted to take a business short-cut that ruined my career!
I got involved with insiders at Lehman Brothers Bank. They helped me fraudulently push my deals through the bank’s underwriting department, which enabled me to get the deals approved quickly. The plan backfired when the bankers flipped on me and made me out to be the mastermind of the scheme they put me on to.
What was the motivating factor that led you to start the WomenOverIncarcerated Movement?
I was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in federal prison for my crime, while many of the key players weren’t charged at all. The white, seasoned, mortgage broker and lawyer who utilized their relationships and licenses to close the deals, and instructed me on what to do, received 2 year sentences each. My sentence was over 6 times greater than theirs, and I was a novice in the game compared to them! When I got sent to Danbury Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut, I noticed there was a pattern in many of the sentences of the white collar offenders I was housed with. We received substantially greater sentences than white males who committed the same or similar crimes. This revelation led to a study conducted by CultureQuantiX. It revealed that many of the white women at our prison received 300% greater sentences than their male counterparts. The figure was 400% for black women. These shocking numbers outraged us, sparking the formation of WomenOverIncarcerated. This organization was established to create awareness about the epidemic of women & prison, and to expose the large sentencing disparities amongst white-collar, female offenders versus white males.
Tell us a little about life in prison and some of the women you met behind bars.
I’ve been incarcerated for close to 9 years. During this time, I’ve met some incredibly strong women. Not only did I see injustices in the cases of white collar offenders, many women were sentenced unfairly for nonviolent drug crimes. Michelle West, the woman who first showed me the ropes and took me under her wing, was sentenced to life plus 50 years for basically being the girlfriend of a notorious drug dealer.
When she told me her story, I was in disbelief! After that, I met tons of women who shared similar stories. They were sentenced to decade plus terms, many as first time, non-violent offenders. Their circumstances and the injustices in their cases moved me to action! I vowed I would do everything I could to shed light on the true faces of women behind bars in federal prison. Many of us are good people, who made poor choices. Yet given the chance, we can pay back our debt to society in a more beneficial manner and become productive members of society.