My book "She's All Caught Up" is featured as Book of The Month for AAMBooK Club. Please check out my feature at www.aambookclub.com/shes-caught-jamila-t-davis and spread the word! Thanks for your support!
My book "She's All Caught Up" is featured as Book of The Month for AAMBooK Club. Please check out my feature at www.aambookclub.com/shes-caught-jamila-t-davis and spread the word! Thanks for your support!
By: Jamila T. Davis
It was a hot summer day on July 8, 2013, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was called to the office at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp by my counselor who introduced me to Lauryn Hill. Lauryn was sentenced to serve 90 days for tax evasion. Because she was in a strange place, with no clue what to expect, I was asked to show her around. Instantly, Lauryn and I connected on so many different levels. We had a lot in common and knew many of the same people from the music-industry. Her presence was a breath of fresh air. I had been down for 5 years at the time, and I had limited association with those I was incarcerated with. Lauryn and I would talk for hours, as I got lost in time. I learned so many things from our conversation that have been useful to me even till this day. She is a true survivor! Our conversations seemed surreal. I felt like I had embarked on a spiritual retreat that was long over due!
Lauryn worked with me in the Recreation Department in the prison. She assisted in instructing the Advanced Guitar class. I looked forward to Saturdays when the class would meet. Every weekend for 2 hours we seemed to escape from mundane, every day prison life through Lauryn's music. At times, it felt like we were in a concert hall as her strong alto voice belted out ballads, while she did her signature strum on the guitar. Watching her in action was amazing! She is truly a musical genius who can rock all genres of music. As an amateur musician and vocalist, I gained a lot of useful tips in a short amount of time from Lauryn.
My favorite moment with Lauryn occurred on Labor Day 2013. In the FEDS holidays are a big deal, because we eat well and we have outdoor activities in the summer. As a part of my prison job, I normally D.J the events. I had my MP3 loaded with songs and I was ready to go! As Lauryn and I sat down in the chow hall to eat, along side our friend Dianne Wilkerson (former Massachusetts State Senator), I eased out my seat and changed my play list. The song "Poison" by Bell, Biv, Devoe came on and Ms. Dianne flew out her seat. I knew it was her favorite song, so my ploy to get a reaction worked. Ms. Dianne jumped in the middle of the floor doing her old school dances, and Lauryn fell out laughing. She couldn't believe how we cut up on the holidays. Yet, by the time the next song was on, Lauryn was out of her seat too. We did the wop dance and the Kid n' Play together as the old school music played. I felt like I was back in junior high school.
The cafeteria foreman was cool. I think he actually got a kick out watching us. After Lauryn was up, I slid over to the MP3 and put on Lauryn's song "Lost Ones." The cafeteria went into an uproar! It was like we were all characters in the Debbie Allen "Fame" movie. The crowded room of inmates started shouting "Lauryn, Lauryn, Lauryn!" After being nudged on, I passed her the microphone and L Boogie got busy baby!!!
I couldn't help but assume my position as the hype women. I started jumping up and down and the young and old followed my lead. We even had the 70 year old women jamming to the song. It was crazy!!! Definitely not your typical moment in federal prison. Lauryn performed for us as if she was doing it for a full house at Madison Square Garden. I keep her music playing and she kept singing! Even the prison staff crowded around to see her perform. At that one moment the officers in blue seemed to find a mutual connection with us all, which is rare. We all had one thing in common, we were Lauryn Hill fans. It was phenomenal!
For weeks the women in Danbury talked about the mini- concert. It was like she raised many of us from the dead. The energy in the entire building changed, even with staff. In a 90 day period, she made us human to them.
So this goes out to my sister for another Mister, Ms. Lauryn Hill. Thanks for lifting my spirit during a period when I needed it the most. I miss you so much it isn't even funny! I have to say you kept it 100. Thanks for not forgetting about me and showing me love, even after you exited these doors. You will forever hold a special place in my heart. You did your time like a soldier! LOVE YOU L-BOOGIE!!!
Although we are locked up, our voices are not locked out! Shout out to my girl, Michelle Miles, author of "The High Price I Had To Pay, Volume 2." Michelle was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for joining her boyfriend's drug operation as a means to escape poverty. Despite her adversities, she has still managed to give back! Michelle made the Top Ten Award List for In The Margins Youth In Custody Book Awards! Her book, which is the second book in my book series, is featured in this month's School Library Journal (SLJ). This is one of the main sources librarians use to decide which books to purchase for their libraries. After spending 18 years behind bars, this soldier girl is finally getting her message out and it is resonating to youth throughout the country! Obama, it's time to set MICHELLE MILES FREE!!! Here is the link to Michelle's feature in this month's SLJ, check it out atwww.slj.com/2015/02/awards/top-2015-titles-for-youth-in-custody-or-in-your-libraries/
Many of you have asked how you can help us in our plight to freedom. Please like this post and tell your friends and family about the Danbury Women who are writing their way to freedom. The more people who know about our stories the better chance we have at coming home. Thanks for your support!
Jamila T. Davis
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN FEDERAL JUDGES WILLFULLY TURN
A BLIND EYE TO EGREGIOUS INJUSTICE?- PART TWO
By: Jamila T. Davis
In my last post I promised to give you the break down on my post conviction efforts and the injustices that occurred in my case. Before I go forward, I must say this past 7 years behind bars has not been easy. It's one thing to hear about injustice, it's another whole thing to actually live it!
I was sentenced to serve over a decade behind bars, accused of defrauding the now defunct Lehman Brothers Bank. Even though there is now compelling evidence to prove the bank what not a victim at all, yet a victimizer who spiraled the 2008 financial crisis by the bank's collapse, I can't express in words the deep pain and disappointment I felt every time my motions for relief were denied. Even more disheartening, the denials were not based on the correct standard of law. In essence, my judge, Honorable Jose Linares, simply made up his own rules, which not only caused me to suffer but the pain extended to my entire family.
For many years I lived in fear, scared to expose the truth. After reading Sidney Powell's "License To Lie," I have finally mustered up the courage to speak out and list the facts, regarding my judge's rulings! Today I realize my voice doesn't only have the potential to help me, but can also bring awareness to the common abuse of power that takes place quite often in courtrooms across the country, which Powell brilliantly brings light to in her book. Therefore, I too will no longer remain silent and will fight back with the truth.
So without further delay, I will share with you the details of what happened in my case, in an easy-to-read format, quoting my judge's rulings. It is my prayer that this document will finally land in the right hands and a watch dog system will be implemented to monitor those who misuse their authority, in what they call the name of justice. I continue to fight because I know in my heart justice will one day be rendered on my behalf. Until then, I will continue marching on!
Below please find my summary of Post Conviction Efforts:
US v. Jamila Davis
Case # Cr-05-483 (Dist. N.J. 2005)
A. Initial District Court Criminal Case
I was indicted in June of 2005 on charges of mortgage fraud based on several mortgage applications I assisted in being facilitated, where straw buyers were used to obtain mortgages greater in value than the purchase price of the property, in order to use the surplus for property repair. False documents supported the applications. The case was notable in that 1) the lender's mortgage servicer (Lehman Bros' agent Aurora Lending) encouraged and guided the false application process, and 2) the government impeded my efforts to mitigate loss by obtaining buyers for the properties post-indictment, subsequently selling those properties to a Lehman Bros. insider at a deep discount. I chose to go to trial on these charges because my lawyer misadvised me. He told me that the false applications weren't fraud where the Aurora mortgage officer in fact knew of the false statements and therefore couldn't have relied on them, and that if I wanted to challenge the loss claimed by Lehman, I had to go to trial. Of course, it turned out my lawyer was dead wrong: the false applications were fraud if a reasonable banker would have relied on them, regardless whether Lehman's agent actually did. And, loss calculation was an issue only for sentencing, not for the guilt or innocence determination made at trial. The Honorable Jose Linares of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey was my judge.
I was convicted by jury verdict on Sept. 20, 2007. I was sentenced on July 16, 2008 to 151 months based on a determination that actual loss was over $14 million (in white collar sentencing, loss amount is the key factor). At my sentencing, my lawyer did not challenge the government's loss estimate, even though we had defense appraisals of the properties that showed by fair market value analysis little or no overall bank loss. Instead, defense counsel only claimed that loss was overstated, and that I should therefore get a downward departure. That meant I had not preserved the core loss issue for appeal.
B. Direct Appeal
My defense counsel handled my direct appeal. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld my conviction on July 1, 2009 (US v. Rickard, 336 Fed. Appx. 235). It rejected the claim that what Aurora in fact relied on was relevant, upholding the lower court's "reasonable lender" standard. The Court stated: "We see no error in the District Court's decision because Petitioner's proposed instruction is not a correct statement of the law." Ibid. It rejected any challenge to my loss calculation because my attorney had not raised it in his opening brief, nor had he preserved the issue at sentencing. The Court stated: "Davis argued for the first time that the total loss resulting from the scheme was incorrectly calculated. Since she did not raise this claim before, we will not consider it." Ibid. Indeed, in my reply brief, my attorney had openly conceded that he made a big mistake not challenging core loss calculation at sentencing: "[I] should have urged the sentencing court to review the calculation of the 'loss amount'...in making the initial guideline calculation of the base offense level, rather than arguing that the loss amount overstated the seriousness of the crime...." March 9, 2009 Reply Brief at p. 15.
II. Section 2255 Motion to Correct/Vacate Sentence
On September 28, 2010, I filed a Petition to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence under 28 USC 2255 (a habeas petition). I raised about 7 issues - that the bank funds weren't FDIC-insured, and that lawyer represented me ineffectively because he misadvised me on materiality, failed to litigate loss, failed to object to restitution, failed to adequately review discovery, failed to interview certain witnesses and experts, and failed to raise a critical appeal issue (loss).
My defense counsel responded by an affidavit attached to the government's answer. He said that it didn't matter what he advised me on materiality because the trial outcome wouldn't have been different. He breezed over the other points, claiming that he did cover loss adequately. The advice issue was key. Under Third Circuit law (US v. Day, 969 F.2d 39 (1992), when a lawyer misadvises his client and causes them to choose trial over a guilty plea, it doesn't matter if the trial is ultimately fair. What matters is that the lawyer's incorrect advice caused the client to choose an option that was harmful to her best interests. Judge Linares ignored this law and denied my 2255 petition. On this issue, he simply adopted the government's response that the trial was ultimately fair so no harm occurred. Judge Linares stated:
Petitioner alleges that her counsel was ineffective because he failed to advise [her]
of the correct interpretation of the law of materiality as it relates to a possible defense
for bank fraud. However, Petitioner cannot show that the result of her trial would have
been different 'but for' this allege[d] deficiency. Thus, the prejudice prong of Strick-
land is not satisfied. Notwithstanding [counsel's] misapplication of the materiality stand-
dard [regarding one set of documents the 2255 claim] still fails because [those] doc-
uments were not the only falsified documents...at trial. Indeed, [there were] more
important documents the government presented...and...there was no way to argue
these were not material. For these reasons, Petitioner fails the Strickland test. Al-
though [counsel's] approach...may have been deficient...the result would not have
been different for Petitioner. This element is dismissed.
Denial of Nov 11, 2011, at pp. 8-9. (Linares also misunderstood the basic "reasonable probability" standard of Strickland. It isn't "but for" the mistake, the result would be different; it's "but for" the mistake, there's a reasonable probability that the result would be different. Strickland v. Washington, 466 US 688, 693 (1986.) Linares also held that defense counsel did not err by failing to raise fair market value loss because it wasn't accepted law.
On December 19, 2011, I filed a Motion to Reconsider the 2255 denial. I presented my facts more cogently in a Supplemental Affidavit, giving great detail as to attorney-client communication, exactly what was said to me and how it caused me to choose trial over pleading guilty. I focused on my lawyer's misadvise on materiality, loss and intent, stating that it doesn't matter if the trial was fair or not; what mattered was that his misadvise caused me to choose an option that was not in my best interests. I also re-raised his failure to litigate loss, showing that the argument he should have made was already well-accepted in the Third Circuit. None of these arguments were new claims.
On March 12, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Lafler v. Cooper, 566 US ___, 132 S.Ct 1376. There, a defendant also claimed that his lawyer gave wrong legal advice, causing him to chose trial over a guilty plea. The Supreme Court held that the duty to represent a client fairly applies to the plea negotiation process, stating that the fact that a trial may prove fair down the road doesn't fix the problem caused by the lawyer's initial misadvice; the outcome to be worried about is the client's decision, not the trial result. It expressly adopted the Third Circuit's decision in Day, supra. "Far from curing error, the trial causes the injury from the error. Even if the trial is free from constitutional error, the defendant who goes to trial instead of taking a more favorable plea may be prejudiced from either a conviction on more serious counts or the imposition of a more severe sentence." Id., 182 L.Ed. 2d at 409. I immediately brought this case to my judge's attention in a supplemental filing in early April 2012, noting that it was exactly the same point I was raising.
On May 29, 2012, Judge Linares denied my Motion to Reconsider. He said I was not raising any problems in his first denial but instead raising new grounds, making my motion to reconsider akin to a second habeas, which I wasn't authorized to file. Of course, none of that was true. Then he said that, even if he did consider my claims, none of them had merit anyway. He didn't discuss or even acknowledge the Supreme Court's new decision in Lafler.
III. Rule 33 Motion for a New Trial
I also moved on November 4, 2010 for a new trial based on significant new evidence that appeared after my sentencing. I was referring to Lehman Bros.' bankruptcy filing on September 11, 2008, an act which propelled the world economy to the point of collapse. Its bankruptcy was based on years of predatory mortgage lending where Lehman and its agent, Aurora Lending, deliberately solicited and approved ill-qualified Alt-A loans, then commercialized this worthless paper. Scores of congressional and academic reports after the debacle identified these practices as the core factor underlying the 2008 global financial collapse. I presented some of these reports to Judge Linares, to show that Lehman's nationwide fraud practices were the same as what had occurred in my case: the Aurora loan officer solicited and approved false mortgage applications for our Alt-A loans. I thought this should impact guilt or innocence, or at least the scope of the punishment, in my case, for how could a bank be a victim of its own fraudulent practices?
On October 20, 2011, Judge Linares again denied me relief. He made the ludicrous statement that, if only I had dug more deeply, I would have discovered these nationwide Lehman practices and been able to raise them at my trial.
"Despite the fact that the [submitted] articles [setting forth the full scope of Lehman's
global fraud] were not written until after [Davis] was convicted, the substance of them
as it relates to...certain...loans were known by [her] at trial. Indeed, [Davis' counsel]
'attempted to prove' that Aurora...'participated in the fraud' but simply 'did not have
access to the [Lehman] information...until after it collapsed.... [Davis], however had
over 18 months between the initial indictment and the start of the trial to perform [her]
due diligence. Although it is debatable whether reasonable diligence could have unearth-
ed the evidence now presented within the 18 month time-frame, [Davis] was free to ask
the Court for more time if needed.
Rule 33 Denial, Oct 21, 2011, pp 4-5. Therefore, the bankruptcy and scope of practices information did not qualify as "new evidence." Nor, the court stated, were the loans in my case the same type as those in Lehman's bankruptcy - a clearly wrong statement of fact. Linares said my loans were subprime, when in fact all of the loans in my case were Alt-A loans, so-called "liar loans, the same type as most of those involved in the Lehman collapse. See testimony of Lehman representative Carl Peterson, Sept. 10, 2007, Trial Transcript pp. 4.134, 4.48, 5.37. 5/43. 4.48.
I also moved for reconsideration here, too, showing the record evidence that the loans were the same type and pointed out the absurdity of the belief that one defendant in a single case could have uncovered the full scope of Lehman's global practices, a scope which took sophisticated academics and other professionals years to unearth. It was a ridiculous conclusion. Predictably, Judge Linares denied this motion jointly with his denial of my 2255 reconsideration motion.
IV. Appellate Review
In July 2012 I appealed both these denials to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. As to the 2255, I pointed out the direct contraction between Judge Linares' position on legal misadvice - that it is irrelevant because the trial outcome was ultimately fair - and the Supreme Court's very clear statement in Lafler v. Cooper that whether the trial is fair or not dos not matter because the damage from the legal misadvice is that it causes the defendant to choose trial over plea and put himself at greater risk for a longer sentence. I also showed that whether a loss figure represents fair market value (the issue my lawyer and Linares said was a new test unaccepted in this Circuit) is exactly the test the federal courts (including the Third Circuit) had been using for years to determine actual loss in my circumstances. It was crazy for an experienced defense counsel not to know this law. And counsel had openly admitted he goofed on this point in his direct appeal reply brief. The standard for granting me permission to fully brief is "could reasonable jurists have disagreed" with the lower court's denial, a very low standard. Nonetheless, the Third Circuit denied me permission to fully brief these issues, stating that "no reasonable jurist could have disagreed" with Judge Linares. It was an astounding conclusion, especially given the Supreme Court's decision in Lafler, which so clearly applied to my situation. I then asked the entire bank of Third Circuit judges to look again at this denial; they denied that request, too. In September 2013, I sought Supreme Court review, showing the straightforward conflict between the denials to date and their own recent decision in Lafler. The Supreme court denied me permission to appeal, and my habeas came to an end.
I also sought Third Circuit review of the lower court's denial of my Rule 33 new trial motion, where Judge Linares claimed I could have discovered Lehman's massive fraud myself had I been more diligent. Unbelievably, the entire Third Circuit bench found no error here, either. They rejected the idea that a financial institution riddled with fraudulent management practices could not itself be a victim of those same practices. I raised this last issue before the Supreme Court, and they rejected it, too. Thus my criminal conviction became final.
By: Jamila T. Davis
Reading Sidney Powell's book "Licensed To Lie" on the top bed of my bunk in federal prison, chills ran up my spine as Powell recounted shady court room and legal proceedings that sounded so familiar. Detail-by-detail she reveals the gruesome behavior of power struck, heartless judges and prosecutors, who disregard the law and snatch away many years of human lives, all done in the name of what they call justice.
Powell, who served in the Department of Justice for ten years in Texas and practiced appellate law for the past twenty years, describes disturbing events, missteps, cover-ups, malfeasance, and corruption in the U.S. judicial system, which she says has caused her to question the system she was once apart of. Now that Powell and other skilled criminal practitioners, who have an inside view of what really goes on are speaking out, I hope the American people will listen and cause something to be done. If not, it could be you, your family members or loved ones next!
It is dangerous to entrust humans with power to play the role of God Himself; especially when they lack character and integrity to uphold the standards of such a position. When judges and prosecutors turn a blind eye to egregious injustices, who is there to watch or punish the watch dogs? Oftentimes their malicious acts are overlooked or excused. Consequently, many individuals have had to pay a very high price for misdeeds that do not warrant such severe punishment. How do I know? I am a victim of injustice!
While not one high level banker has served a day in prison for the events that spiraled the 2008 financial crisis, I am serving a 12 1/2 year sentence. I was accused of being the 25 year old mastermind who devised an elaborate scheme to defraud the now defunct Lehman Brothers Bank. Just 59 days after I was sentenced to over a decade behind bars, the bank collapsed. Lehman's bankruptcy findings revealed that the bank's lending practices were premised on fraud. Congress itself conducted an investigation into Lehman's practices and concluded the bank knowingly and willfully funded billions of dollars in fraudulent mortgage loans, and their collapse spiraled the 2008 financial crisis. Geared with the Congressional reports in hand, I just knew my conviction would be immediately overturned. With the newly discovered evidence there was no way the government could say I was the mastermind of a scheme that was now proven the bank originated. With the turn of events on my side and tons of legal errors in my case, I stood confidently awaiting my immediate release. But, it never happened!
The Honorable Jose Linares, the judge who presided over my case, decided to disregard the law and made up his own rules, denying my motions. This might seem farfetched to some, yet I have the facts to prove my statement is true! It is easy to get convicted, but almost impossible to have a conviction overruled. Even with the turn of events as big as the 2008 financial crisis which tore the mask off the Wall Street bankers who claimed they were victims. The problem is no one wants to admit they were wrong, so judges and prosecutors continue to cover up their false allegations, even when the evidence contradicts them. This is crazy, yet true! Powell also reveals several accounts of this kind of behavior in her book. In a legal culture that promotes throwing people's lives away to climb up the political ladder, there is no room to admit fault. Thereby, prosecutors and judges hold the pass no other Americans have. Like Powell stated, they are "licensed to lie!"
At first, I assumed it was an error or oversight on his part, so I filed a Motion of Reconsideration on both of his denials, citing the correct law. Despite the Supreme Courts recent Lafler ruling, which contradicted the judge's basis for denial, Judge Jose Linares once again denied my motions using an incorrect standard of the law.
I thought my case was rare or unique, until I started reading books' like Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow." Just like Powell, Alexander once worked on the other side and didn't want to believe such deep rooted corruption existed within the U.S. judicial system. Yet, when she discovered the truth, she courageously spoke out about it and skillfully cited numerous accounts of injustice, similar to what I have endured. It's courageous advocates such as Powell and Alexander who have inspired me to speak out!
I have sat behind bars for close to 7 years. Not because my crime warranted it, but because of improper denials of my motions to the court, based on the rulings of a biased judge. I don't expect you to take my word for it, so in the next post I will detail the facts in an easy-to-read summary, quoting my judge's words. It is my hope this information will one day get in the right hands and justice will finally be rendered on my behalf.
Until then, I will continue to do the work God has for me behind bars and patiently wait for the tables to turn. One thing for certain, I know what happens in the dark eventually comes to light and certain things are allowed for a greater purpose. My encounter with injustice has turned me into an active prison reform activist, even from behind bars. I have made a vow, until the day I die or change comes, that I too will be an advocate for justice. I realize without speaking out, change will never come!
INCREDIBLE WOMEN I MET IN FEDERAL PRISON- PART #6
by Lisa Barrett
With much attention being given to the imminent arrival of Teresa Giudice, cast member of the Real Housewives of New to Federal Prison, I decided I would throw my insight into the mix to give a more accurate account of what her life will be like during incarceration. I am winding down on a one year sentence at Danbury Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Danbury, Connecticut, the same facility where Mrs. Giudice will be housed. She is scheduled to begin her sentence just 13 days after my departure. As author of "How to Navigate Through Federal Prison and Gain an Early Release," I will share with you, firsthand, what Teresa Giudice, will experience at Danbury FPC.
Contrary to what is being reported in the media, the FPC does not have barbed wire or fences around the premises. In fact, inmates are free to move around the facility and recreation area at will, except during official counts. Because the FPC is adjacent to the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), where higher security male offenders are housed, the media has mistakenly shown pictures of that facility. The two facilities at Danbury share the same property, but are two separate compounds. The FPC is basically one small, narrow building a stone's throw up the hill from the FCI. Inside the Camp is just one long hallway with 12 rooms raised up half a level on one side of the building, which houses new inmates. Offices line the other side of the hallway and the downstairs consists of three dormitory style housing areas. The rooms hold 6-8 bunk beds and lockers along with a chair for each bunk. The facility also consists of two education class rooms, a small chapel, recreation room, a chow hall and a visiting room, which is also used as a television room for inmates. On the grounds is a Commissary, Out Warehouse, UNICOR, Food Service Warehouse and CMS shops where inmates work.
Entering prison and the few days following are generally rougher than day-to-day prison living. Theresa can expect to be handcuffed, strip-searched, medically screened, fingerprinted, issued an official Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Identification card and outfitted in prison issued clothing upon her surrender. This is the initial intake process, which takes approximately 2- 4 hours.
Life for Teresa won't be as bad as the media has portrayed it. The women at the Camp are anticipating her arrival. She has several die-hard fans who will be there to greet her and show her the ropes. Inmates generally compare the Camp to a retirement home or a college campus. Some Campers crochet or knit the hours away, while others use the time to advance their knowledge through reading and writing. There are educational opportunities and so many talented individuals who are willing to share their skills and knowledge freely. Teresa will have access to a hair salon, manicures, pedicures and facials, but not on the level to which she may be accustomed. The holidays at Danbury FPC, while sad to be away from family, are a lot better than could be expected. Contrary to what has been printed, Teresa will not be eating "canned gravy and instant potatoes." The Thanksgiving feast I ate last month was as good as any I've ever eaten. The inmates who work in Food Service take pride in what they prepare and made everything from scratch including sweet potato pies, collard greens, candied yams, macaroni & cheese, turkey, ham and stuffing. There are holiday decorations throughout the facility and many holiday activities including Karaoke and Bingo.
Danbury FPC is a small camp housing just over 200 inmates. For the most part, everyone knows each other and gets along. There are professional and blue collar women who interact well together and learn from one another. Hopefully Teresa didn't spend too much money on self-defense classes as reported by the tabloids, because she won't need them at Danbury. In the nine months I've spent here, I have heard numerous arguments, but only witnessed one fight. I've come to understand most fights are between gay couples, so I don't think Teresa will have any worries unless she decides to become "gay for the stay."
Depending on her job assignment, Teresa will most likely spend her days working out or walking the outdoor track. Danbury is nestled within the beautiful mountains of Connecticut with scenic views from the building and recreation area. I've experienced winter, spring, summer and fall here at Danbury and each view has been more amazing then the season before it. She may have extra time to watch television or she may learn a craft such as crocheting or knitting. She may even decide to teach or enroll in a continuing education class at the Camp or earn college credit through correspondence courses. Whatever she chooses, I have no doubt she will find ways to pass the time.
Almost every woman at Danbury looks forward to family and friends visiting on weekends. Inmate visitor lists are limited to 15 people over age 16, including immediate family. At first, Teresa may not want to subject her girls to a prison environment, but I'm sure once she thinks it through, she'll want to see them as much as possible. I enjoy the visits I get from my family once a week. Thank goodness they haven't missed a weekend since I've been here. That has been a means of escape from every day prison life. Along with recreation movies, which are played on the weekend, and religious services, visits are the highlight of the week at Danbury.
As a mother, wife, daughter and celebrity, communication with the outside world will likely be a priority to Teresa. Some women dislike the idea of standing in line to use one of only four telephones for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time. All calls are monitored by the BOP, including email messages. Therefore, I wouldn't advise her to get too personal over the phone. Telephone use is limited to 300 minutes per month at a cost of $0.06/minute for local calls and $0.23/minute for long distance calls. Email is archaic, but functional, at a cost of $0.05/minute with unlimited use. As long as there are funds in an inmate's account, she may purchase TRU-Units to use the email. With only eight computers available for email use, there is usually a period of waiting. However, once a computer station is secured, it can be used for up to one hour. There is no access to any application software or the Internet; there is only standard email.
Contrary to popular belief, it takes money to survive in prison. Money shouldn't be a problem for Teresa. Although the BOP provides free room and board along with basic clothing, there are many other essentials inmates are not provided. These essentials can be purchased through the Camp Commissary. Teresa will be allowed to spend up to $320 per month, restricted to $160 bi-weekly on Commissary items including hygiene products, t-shirts, sweatpants, shorts, alarm clock, snacks, coffee, religious items, radio, MP3 player, hair dye and yarn. Funds to purchase these items comes out of an inmate's deposit account, which is the same account used to purchase TRU-Units for their TRULINCS account in order to download music or send funds out of the institution. Teresa is arriving on Monday, January 5, 2015, giving her the opportunity to shop Commissary the very next day. The Commissary is open weekly for business at Danbury FPC between the hours of 6:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays. She may spend her full $160 if the money is available in her account.
I've never watched "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," but from what I understand, Teresa likes to be at the center of controversy and cannot always control her temper as demonstrated on the episode when she flipped a table over in anger. To avoid confrontation, Teresa will need to follow this advice: Don't ask too many questions of other inmates, it may make you appear to be a rat. Mind your own business and do your own time. Don't ask anyone about their charges and you will notice they won't ask you. Don't talk about what you have in the outside world like money, cars and homes. It may make others jealous and possibly make you a target for extortion. Don't cut in line for meals, laundry or other services. Don't reach across another inmate's food under any circumstances. Always remember you are an inmate, not the police. If you have a problem with another inmate, settle it between yourselves. Do not go to the CO unless the matter has gotten extremely out of hand. If you hear or see something that goes against the rules, keep it to yourself or risk being ostracized. The only exception is if your life is in immediate danger, which is not likely to ever happen. Be respectful to other inmates. Fights in prison mostly happen because one inmate feels a lack of respect from another inmate. Always be courteous, especially with the courtesy flush, which means when using the toilet, flush often to keep odors at bay. Generally, maintain a quiet confidence, stay under the radar and simply blend into the crowd as best you can. Trust no one and never let your guard down! If she keeps all of these helpful tips in mind, she will do her time in peace. No one wants to do time in prison, but by knowing the ropes in advance any one can successfully navigate through federal prison and gain an early release. I did!
Lisa Barrett, author of "How To Navigate Through Federal Prison And Gain An Early Release," is a life-long educator and prison reform activist. While serving a year in Federal prison for theft and embezzlement of labor union funds, Barrett developed a comprehensive guidebook to help prisoners survive the hardships of incarceration and gain an early release. Today she is utilizing her experience as an educator, political activist and an overcome to make strides for prison reform and educate women behind bars.
Last night I hosted the New Year's Eve, Holiday Jam at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp. For a few hours we escaped out of prison mode, as we partied like rock stars! Michael Jackson's song "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" blasted through the large speakers in the Visiting Room, as the young and old, of all ethnicities, partied together. Mrs. Hemphill, one of our eldest and most respected fellow inmates, who is 73 years old, did a moonwalk-like motion on the dance floor and everyone turned up! Although we were conscious at that moment that we were still property of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) our spirits felt free. We gave thanks to God that we were able to see another year, and together in unison we counted down the New Year. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
New Year's day followed in good spirit. We had steak, bake potatoes, clam chowder and freshly baked cheese bread for lunch, along with egg nog. I ate my meal across from a friendly face I had never formally met before. She is a new transfer from Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. As we began to talk over our meal, she shared with me how much fun she had the night before and how she never thought she would celebrate New Year's in such a manner in prison. I smiled and told her that our celebration is a Danbury tradition. We try our best as inmates to make the best out of the holidays. I almost dismissed the nature of our conversation until she engaged further.
"I read your book 'Unlocking The Prison Doors.' It was sent to me in Alderson by your publisher. I was going through a very rough time and your book helped me tremendously," the women said emphatically, as I stopped to make sure I heard her correctly.
"Yeah your books are a hit in West Virginia. Many of the women their read them to help cope with their incarceration. We keep several sets in the chapel for the new prisoners to read," the woman continued on.
Her words made me reflect and give gratitude to God. Even though I'm experiencing one of the most challenging times of my life, I realized that the work I've done behind bars has had a great impact on others. That means so much to me! It lets me know there is indeed purpose in my pain. I took great value in the lesson I got from the woman's conversation, which I want to share with you. Even though we may do many good deeds that seem to go unnoticed, they still have great value to others. Therefore, don't be weary in your well doing, in due season you'll reap much. Happy New Year!
In a dark place that I expected to be a cruel world, I met some really bright lights. To me, a light is a person who God uses to shine His reflection upon others. Going through life circumstances, we often question "why me?" I've learned through my journey that some of us have been sent on difficult missions to help others who will have to experience the same path. These are people whom I call lights, because it is there light that leads the way for many others!
Behind bars, I've met many dynamic women who have helped me on my journey. Each of them have contributed to my life in different ways, but this one individual is a stand out for women in prison. Sentenced to serve a 12 months in Federal prison, she could have put her feet up, relaxed and used her time to rest her brain, but she didn't!
I am proud to introduce you to a woman that used her time of imprisonment to create a powerful book to help other newcomers overcome the fear of imprisonment and teach them how to get through their sentence as quickly as possible. Her name is Lisa Barrett and her new book, which is scheduled for release early next year, is called "How To Navigate Through Federal Prison And Gain An Early Release."
I had the pleasure of collaborating with Lisa on this project, after discovering we had similar experiences and fears of imprisonment. We both hired the same prison consultant to help us prepare for prison. She paid a hefty $5000.00 fee, and I paid $10,000 to retain his service. Although we both come from different walks of life, we were nervous and had no clue what to expect. Like myself, Lisa thought prison was going to be a death sentence, but it was not! Her book will now help to relieve the fears of many by preparing them for imprisonment and educating them how to get out as quickly as possible. With this book, they will not have to experience the pain or pay the price that we did. This is our give back! We share what we have learned and provide powerful tips to help newcomers.
Lisa Barrett is a long term educator who worked in the Pennsylvania public school system for close to 30 years. She also held the title as Teacher's Union President for many years, where she advocated for change in the school system. I'm glad now that she is free, she has picked a new role as a women's prison reform activist to help create change within the federal prison system. We desperately need her help! So, shout out to my friend Lisa Barrett! Not only did you survive your worst fear, you created a manual to help others do the same. You are what I call a true overcomer! May God richly bless you in all your endeavors. Thank you for shining your bright light upon me. You are truly loved and appreciated!
As you know more and more female celebrities are being sentenced to serve time in Federal prison. Theresa Giudice, reality star of the "Housewives of New Jersey" is up next. Although there has been a lot of press about what she can expect to experience in prison, most of the reports are inaccurate. The reporters have no clue of what goes on behind bars, but Lisa Barrett, author of "How To Navigate Through Federal Prison An Gain An Early Release," does! Sorry, "Orange Is The New Black" does not give justice to what one can really expect at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp. Author Lisa Barrett tells it like it is! Stayed tuned for her new article and get a real inside view of life for women behind bars in Federal prison!
by: Jamila T. Davis
Tension filled the crowded prison salon as the girls assembled to fight. Re-Re, a tall brown skinned girl from Washington D.C. had her friends on deck and they were ready to get it in! Re-Re had her hand pulled back to hit my friend Dawn, who was her rival. Before she could land her punch, I jumped in between both of the emotionally charged women.
"Hold up!" I shouted at the top of my voice taking everyone off of their guard. My hands were stretch wide open pushing the girls apart. "This argument is stupid! You are both pretty, gifted black women. Why are you fighting over such stupidness." The unusual passion in my voice must have caught their attention. The packed room of girls listened attentively, staring at me as I talked.
"The government has suppressed us enough. We are all hurting and missing our loved ones. When does the madness stop? This is just what they expect us to do. They want us to kill each other. We can't give them that! I just won't allow it! Not here and not now!" I spoke emphatically.
Inside I was frightened to death, but I let my spirit guide me. The words I spoke rose up from the bottom of my soul, releasing the energy that was trapped inside of me. I was in this strange place not knowing what to expect, but my instinct saved me. Quickly recognizing the power of my speech, the women in the shop began to disperse and the heated conversation dispelled. I was relieved!
Over the next several months my hair dresser Dawn took care of me. She introduced me to all of her friends and gave me a lot of items that made my prison stay more comfortable. Having her do my hair gave me great satisfaction. Even though I was locked up, having my hair done the same way I wore it in the streets made me still feel human inside.
Dawn helped to prepare me for the long stretch I had up ahead. She taught me the ropes and I listened. When you are in a dark, strange place a familiar face makes such a difference. Around Dawn, I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down and share my feelings. I enjoyed the many long walks we took together and the incredible advice she gave me.
Unfortunately my union with Dawn did not last too long. I was shipped to Santa Ana, California to handle another charge and she was deported back to Guyana. I never did get a chance to say goodbye, so please allow me this moment.
Dawn, wherever you are in the free world, I just want to thank you for your love and support during some of my most difficult times. You will forever be the dopest hair dresser I have had, both in and out of prison. May you continue to use your gifts to bless the lives of others, and may your life forever be filled with joy and happiness. From the bottom of my heart you are loved and greatly missed!
Jamila T. Davis is a self help expert, motivational speaker, prison reform activist and the author of several books geared to empower her generation.