Sentenced To Prison Fo...

Sentenced To Prison For Mortgage Fraud, This Woman Is Making A Comeback

By Walter Pavlo, Forbes

It has been over two years since I wrote about Jamila Davis, a young woman who was prosecuted and convicted by then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (current New Jersey governor) for mortgage fraud.  The "victim" of Davis's case was Lehman Brothers, which went bust in 2008 for essentially fueling deals like those that sent Davis to prison for 12 1/2 years.  Now Davis, who was sentenced to prison the same year Lehman collapsed, is preparing for her exit from prison later this year, and you are probably going to hear more from her in the future.

Jamila Davis in Danbury Federal Prison Camp

Jamila Davis in Danbury Federal Prison Camp

Davis, like nearly 600,000 people released from state and federal prisons each year, faces many obstacles in reuniting with family, finding meaningful work and defining their purpose on the other side of incarceration. Unlike many of those released, Davis started working on her return to life in the free world almost as soon as she entered prison.

During her time in prison, Davis did more than reflect on her case, she did her best to be a part of the lives of her two children, Kywuan, who was 11 years old at the time, Diamond, who was 9. She held the family together with visits at the federal prison in Danbury, CT, phone calls and video chats.  I spoke to Davis about the experience and she told me, "Literally, in the prison visiting room, I would help them work on their school aspirations and business plans. My son and I worked on his music career as a rapper, and I helped him set up his own fashion line."

Both of Davis's children are now in college. Like any parent, she is proud of their accomplishments but she has missed nine years of holiday celebrations, birthdays, proms and graduations.

During her incarceration, Davis received an associates degree in psychology, a bachelors in Christian education and a masters in African American ministry. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program to obtain a PhD in Christian counseling with a specialization in life coaching. As to what she is going to do with her degrees, she said, "I want to start a counseling center that helps address the needs of at-risk children and ex-offenders. I want them to use my life as an example."

Davis has authored several books since going to prison, including three books in "The Voice of Consequences Enrichment" series.  The book is a self-help series geared to help female offenders heal, recognize their potential and recapture their dreams. She also wrote "The High Price I Had to Pay," which provides insights into Davis's own missteps but shines a light on some of Lehman's poor business practices.  There can never be enough of those kinds of books.

While she has made it no secret those who showed her the "how to" in mortgage fraud, she is more reflective of her prison experience.  "In many ways I feel women in the FEDS [federal prison] are a lost population. Many in the public have no clue that we exist," she said, "My goal is to showcase the talent of women prisoners to create a more sympathetic picture of who we are and the injustices we face. I am not saying we shouldn't be punished for our crimes, but I believe the punishment should equate more to the crime."

In collaboration with her son Kywuan, they wrote a song (a poem) that captures her time in prison and their relationship.  Entitled, "Cause I," here are a few lines:

In a visiting room I watched you turn into a man
Absent from your life, I could only hold your hand
It hurt my soul to the core when I watched you leave
Every time you shed a tear my heart would bleed

Not a day goes by I don't envision your face
Memories gone by I can never replace
I'm so glad that you stayed so strong
Never judged me for what I've done wrong

Now I see your face on the TV screens
Billboards, world tours, the American Dream
I never thought my little man would hold me down
Life will be different this time around

My prince, let me make it clear, you are my life
Been more than what a husband could be to a wife
That's why for you Ky, I'd give my last breathe
Nothing can separate us, not even my death!

People like Jamila Davis are an example of how overcoming adversity can make someone better, even those adversities that are self inflicted. I would like to think how much better some of our financial institutions would be if some of the executives who were responsible for the financial crisis would have been held accountable.  Maybe a little prison time would have done them some good, but we will never know.  To make my point, Barclays Plc, the bank that purchased of the remnants of Lehman in 2008, agreed in August 2016 to pay $100 million to 44 U.S. states to resolve an investigation into interest-rate manipulation.  

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