I’ve experienced tremendous obstacles in my life, yet through them all I have overcome! I’ve written and published several books, which led me to become a best selling author. I’ve obtained multiple degrees, and I’m currently working on my PhD. I’ve designed a curriculum to reduce recidivism of ex-offenders, and I’ve created and produced several films. What makes my life unique is that I accomplished this all from behind bars. I am federal prisoner #59253-053, sentenced to 12 1/2 years for bank fraud.
When people think about women in prison, they generally have a negative perception about who we are. Many judge us, yet they fail to take into account the adverse circumstances we have endured. In fact, statistics show approximately 60 percent of female offenders have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their past. This does not justify our poor choices, nor does it mean that we shouldn’t be punished for our crimes. But, if we are not given the proper tools or resources to deal with our past issues, how can you expect us to change? This is a hurdle that many incarcerated women face. We are punished, yet given few solutions to address the root causes that led us to prison.
Once voted “Most Likely To Succeed” amongst my peers, I was least expected to land in prison. Growing up, I was an A+ student. I attended Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in New York City, aka the “Fame” School of the Arts. Excelling in dance, drama and singing, I was told I was destined to become a star, and I was well on my way!
Life took a dramatic shift during high school years when I got intimately involved with a drug dealer, who introduced me to life in the fast lane. I was memorized by the fast-paced, under-world that appeared to be so intriguing. It felt good to exchange my “nerdy” persona and be labeled as a “cool kid.” So much so, I gave up on my own dreams to pursue what I perceived to be a fun, easy life. I was living on a high until my boyfriend, who spoiled me with lavish gifts from his drug money, dumped me for an older girl. He said he was choosing her over me, because she worked at a bakery and had her own money. I was crushed! A switch flipped inside and there was no turning back!
From this experience, I felt money was the solution to my problems, so I became infatuated with making as much cash as I could. Instead of dealing with my low self-esteem and the pain of my heartbreak, I went on a high speed paper chase. My determination to redeem myself, at any cost, fueled me to achieve my goal. By the time I was 25 years old I became a multi-millionaire, living the life of my dreams. Little did I know my ambitious pursuit, which was filled with poor choices, would also land me in federal prison for over a decade.
I share my story to say, many of us behind bars have deep-rooted issues. In fact, I lived in spiritual prison for many years before I ever landed behind physical prison bars. I never got the opportunity to deal with the root of my problems, nor did I truly understand them. Consequently, I endured a series of bad relationships, which included physical abuse. Behind all the flashy cars, gaudy jewelry and designer clothes, there was a broken women who didn’t love herself. Even worst, this woman wore so many masks, which she used to be accepted. Consequently, she had no clue who she really was.
Behind bars I finally had the opportunity to heal and turn my life around. I used education as a weapon to tear down the false ideologies of what I once perceived to be “success.” After many years of development, I took my findings and used them to compose “The Voices of Consequences Enrichment Series.” It is a three volume, self-help series for incarcerated women, created to help us heal, recognize our potential and recapture our dreams. It took six years to design this curriculum, which includes textbooks, workbook/journals and curriculum guides. I just released the last book in this series, “Pursuit to a Greater ‘Self.'”
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 has 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. That’s what makes the difference!
As the voice of a population that has been called “the bottom of the barrel,” “losers,” or “America’s Trash,” this a fervent cry for help! Please don’t count us out or write us off. If you give us the resources, we will change. I did!….END MASS INCARCERATION!!!
For more information about Jamila T. Davis and “The Voices of Consequences Enrichment Series,” please visit www.vocseries.com or www.jamiladavis.com. You can also follow her journey on social media at www.facebook.com/authorjamilatdavis, or on Instagram/Twitter: @jamilatdavis.