Author Profile

Donna Hylton

Donna Hylton

Donna Hylton is a women's rights activist and criminal justice reform advocate. Donna speaks publicly about the issues facing incarcerated women and girls and the significant impact the significant increase in the female prison population is having on families, children and our communities.

Donna's own life took an unexpected and life-changing turn when as a child she was lured from Jamaica to the United States. Her memoir,  'A Little Piece of Light,' tells the story of the childhood abuse she endured, the spiral of events that lead to her incarceration and how she learned to live, love and trust all over again.

""I first met Donna Hylton at Riverside Church when she had just been released from prison after serving 27 years, and she is an unforgettable presence. In this riveting book Donna bravely and honestly does the difficult work of reconciling the harm she suffered and the harm she caused, and the reasons both are important. A Little Piece of Light is a gripping account of promises kept or broken, showing the incredible resilience and triumph of women in the face of neglect and violence. Donna Hylton's story is both wrenching and life-affirming, and essential reading to anyone who cares about women, safety and justice."--Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black"
-- Piper Kerman, Author of Orange is the New Black

"A criminal justice reform advocate's story about how her personal history of abuse and poor judgment led to incarceration for crimes she did not commit. Hylton was barely 8 when she left her native Jamaica with Americans Daphne and Roy, who promised her a "magical" trip to Disney World. Instead, she found herself in New York, the unwitting adopted daughter of a cold woman and her sexual predator husband. A school guidance counselor later confronted Daphne with Hylton's story of sexual abuse, but Daphne denied it and forced Hylton to apologize. Desperate to flee a dysfunctional family situation, the author applied for a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school. In her confusion, she ran away with Roy's friend Alvin, who offered sanctuary but instead made her pregnant. She spent the remainder of her teens trying to be "a mother, find a job, and straighten out my life" and recovering from a series of rapes. Eventually, she found a stable job as a shop clerk and befriended a woman named Maria, who promised she would help Hylton find money to begin a modeling career. Instead, Maria drew the author into a web of mob intrigue that led to Hylton's wrongful conviction for kidnapping and second-degree murder. Over the next 25 years in prison, she came into contact with women of all backgrounds--including "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher--who had also been victims of molestation and abuse. Hylton formed powerful relationships with them and became involved in prison groups promoting pathways beyond hopelessness and despair. Intimate and disturbing, the book reveals the ways women are silenced and victimized in society, and it also tells the inspiring story of how one woman survived a prison nightmare to go on to help other incarcerated women "speak out about the violence in their lives." A wrenching memoir of overcoming seemingly insurmountable abuse and finding fulfillment. "
-- Kirkus Review,

""Donna Hylton's A Little Piece of Light reveals her life journey in an exquisitely written memoir. Donna suffered so long before finding a place to belong. It brings into question how America criminalizes the trauma of poor women. This book is a real page-turner that has you sitting on the edge of your seat. . . . A must read."―Susan Burton, author of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight Against Incarcerated Women"
-- Susan Burton, Author of Becoming Ms. Burton

For more about Donna and her works, go to

Videos featuring Donna Hylton

Donna Hylton (From Inside /Out) CCTV THE HEAT PROMO

Donna Hylton (From Inside /Out) CCTV THE HEAT PROMO from Dan Pearson on Vimeo.

VICELAND At The Women's March: Donna Hylton