Amy Fisher

Gender, Law

Amy Fisher, AKA the Long Island Lolita,” has a new book: If I Knew Then. Here is a snippet from the AP news story:

Fisher speaks candidly in the book about her teenage tryst with car mechanic Joey Buttafuoco and the events that led her to his wife’s doorstep in May 1992, where she shot the woman in the head, thinking it was what he wanted.

For the life of me, I don’t know why I did it,” Fisher writes. I’ll never have an answer for that … there is no logical reason for why I did it.”

What the AP story doesn’t discuss, but which I heard Amy Fisher talking about in a radio interview (I think it was on NPR, but I can’t find it on their web site), was about life in prison. She claims that she was raped and tortured in prison. I’m amazed I can’t find any more about this story on the web. She says she filed charges against the guards, but nothing came of them; although the guards were convicted of charges brought against them by other women later on. I was thinking about why this aspect of her story has received so little attention and it occurred to me that most people may simply feel that rape is an accepted part of a prison sentence for attempted murder.

It reminded me of this story I had seen in Slate last October:

The truth is that the United States has essentially accepted violence—and particularly brutal sexual violence—as an inevitable consequence of incarcerating criminals. Indeed, prison assault has become a cliché within mainstream culture. The news and entertainment media refer to it nonchalantly. Prime-time TV shows, such as Oz, depict the most awful scenes of rape and carnage. Popular TV dramas routinely depict police taunting potential defendants with threats of the violence and sexual abuse they will face in prison. Indeed, last year 7UP ran a TV advertisement in which a teasing threat of sexual assault in prison was part of a lighthearted pitch for selling soda. The advertisement ran for two months without objection and was only pulled after criticisms from prisoners’ rights groups.

So accepted is assault as part of prison life that an outsider might conclude that on some basic, if unarticulated level, we think it an appropriate element of the punishment regimen. Perhaps we believe that allowing prisons to be places of horrific acts will serve as part of the utilitarian deterrent effect of criminal sentences. Or perhaps we recognize that prison rape and assault are an unavoidable byproduct of the rape and assault in society generally, so that our goal here is not utilitarian but retributive: that is, even though we cannot eliminate rape and assault, we can at least reallocate them. Thus, when we purport to incapacitate convicted criminals, what we are really doing is shifting to them, the most deserving” among us, the burden of victimization.

A bill was recently passed by Congress, but all it does is call for an investigation”… The website Stop Prison Rape offers a lot of information, as does a search through the archives of TalkLeft.

Another aspect of Amy Fisher’s story is that she probably shouldn’t have gone to prison in the first place, or at least not for so long a sentance. She plea bargained, on the advice of a lousy lawyer, rather than going to trial.

Amy Fisher is now married, pregnant, and has a radio show and newspaper column in the Long Island Ear.