Book Review: She’s All Caught Up, by Jamila T. Davis
Described as a “cautionary tale for young people” Jamila Davis’ memoir She’s All Caught Up is also a fascinating look into the demimonde of shady deals and walking a thin line ethical line, from the point of view of the woman who became a millionaire entrepreneur at age 25.
Jamila Davis is currently serving 12 and a half years in a federal prison for bank fraud. Her case involves seven real estate deals in which she and several others fabricated home buyers’ financial statements so that they would be approved for mortgages.
In July of 2008, then United States Attorney Chris Christie (who is currently the governor of New Jersey and a Presidential hopeful) announced that Jamila Davis and another woman would receive “long prison terms for their roles in orchestrating a mortgage fraud scheme to defraud Lehman Brothers Bank … of more than $14 million.” Two weeks after Christie’s announcement, Lehman Brothers collapsed and nearly took the world’s economy with it. The bank that Jamila had defrauded, it turned out, had been involved in any number of shady or outright illegal schemes itself, though no Lehman Brothers executive has ever been charged with a crime. The man who prosecuted Jamila Davis, Chris Christie, has himself come under scrutiny for various scandals involving the abuse of his power as governor, missing federal funds for a railway tunnel, and the infamous “Bridgegate” case. Christie has not been charged with a crime, but the New Jersey state legislature and a federal grand jury are in the process of investigating several possible violations of law on the part of Christie and his staff.
Davis’ memoir, which she wrote in prison, does not focus on the irony of her situation or the unfairness of her sentence. This is not a book about the criminal justice system or about the different meanings of “justice” for wealthy white men and women of color. Rather, it tells the story of choices, roads not taken, insecurity and fears that led a talented teenager from Queens, New York to become a real estate broker making millions of dollars from questionable deals with well-known sports and music stars. Davis tells her story with honesty and insight into how the values she was taught by her parents – hard work and excellence in school – became warped by a need for instant gratification and approval from others. She details her thoughts and feelings as a young girl through the time she wound up sentenced to federal prison with a degree of candor, depth and insight that is rare in the tell-all crime genre.
Whether Ms. Davis’ crimes were the result of environment, poor choices, a natural intelligence not allowed to flower or a combination of all three is left for the reader to decide. Ms. Davis does not make excuses or blame her co-conspirators, who made plea deals in exchange for lighter sentences. She does not point out that the use of straw buyers and obtaining wildly inappropriate mortgages for financially unqualified home buyers were the norm for many banks in the 1990’s. The reader may wish she did and, indeed, there is another story in Davis’ tale: one about injustice, over-sentencing and a penal system burdened by the political expediency of a “throw away the key” mentality. But, as the author points out over and over, her fear for other young women who are easily seduced by fast money and fame was the motivation for telling her story. She’s All Caught Up tells Davis’ story admirably well. And what a story it is.
Author Jamila T. Davis
Jamila T. Davis is currently incarcerated at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp For Women in Danbury, Connecticut. She is expected to be released in 2019. While in prison, Davis has become a motivational speaker and the creator of the Voices of Consequences Enrichment Series for incarcerated women.
By the Same Author
Read More About Jamila Davis’ Case in Forbes Magazine’s “The Woman Who Brought Down Lehman, Or So You Were Told“