by Jamila T. Davis
This has been a very long journey, but I've learned many valuable lessons from some incredibly gifted women during my 6 1/2 years of incarceration. Often people think of prisoners as morbid killers, creeps or "low-lives." But the truth is, many of us are good people who happen to make a mistake. I've been given the unique opportunity to develop friendships with some amazing individuals who probably would have never crossed my path, yet our mishaps led us to the same place. I want to share some of these experiences with you.
I've come to the conclusion that the FEDS don't discriminate when it comes to locking people up. From multi-Grammy award winners, authors, politicians, Fortune 500 executives and even lawyers, one mistake landed us all in prison. Ranging from 18 years old to 80 years old, I've met women of all backgrounds, ages and creeds who were serving time for committing nonviolent crimes. I decided to start this blog to create awareness about the rising epidemic of women in federal prison, and to share the knowledge I learned from individuals who have inspired and uplifted me during my term of incarceration.
Reading recent tabloid articles about the reality star from "The Housewives of New Jersey," Theresa Guidice, coming to prison, I realized America has no clue about the true lives of those of us behind bars. Therefore, I decided to give you all a sneak peek about who we are, what we do and how we manage to pass time.
First up is the women from Danbury Federal Prison Camp who participated in the CHOICES Community Outreach Program with me. Let me tell you my sisters mean straight business! We've spoke at high schools, colleges, forums and youth conventions throughout the state of Connecticut, encouraging at-risk youth not to make the mistakes that we once did. This took courage! Together we shed a lot of tears. It was hard to admit our mistakes and acknowledge our flaws, and even harder to share them with others. But we did it! The benefit was not only for ourselves; we helped many children along the way. It was amazing that our stories had the ability to pierce the hearts of even the most rebellious teens who vowed to take our advice and deter from crime!
As a federal inmate, I was given the incredible opportunity to give an acceptance speech on behalf of the CHOICES group on the stage at Yale University, in front of a packed audience. Actually it was kind of strange to be awarded by the U.S. Attorney's office, which is the same entity who advocated for many of us to be given decade plus sentences behind bars as nonviolent offenders. None the less, the honor was a delight. As I shared our journey through the intense program, there wasn't a dry eye in the building. For that mere moment we weren't viewed as prisoners. We were seen as humans who made errors. It appeared that the audience could relate to the fact that we made a mistake and had the courage to admit our faults, while paying a hefty price. As I stared out into the audience that was filled with sympathy and compassion, I couldn't help but think of those who may have committed the same exact offenses, yet never got caught. It was my hope that our stories would speak to those individuals and help them avoid our mistakes.
So my first shout out goes to the women of the CHOICES program. You all inspired me to share my experiences with the world! Though many of you have returned home to your loved ones, you will forever hold a special place within my heart. Continue to live life on PURPOSE