The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Loving life

Last week’s Best of Show prize at the BGF Bake Off went to Miss 3-D for his creative interpretation of Paris Hilton in prison: bent over doggie-style on the bed, taking up one of her holes a strap-on sported by a black lesbian. Of course, prison life for the pampered princess isn’t likely to be that exciting. Crap food and a cold cell are about as scintillating as it gets. Despite what the camp TV show, Prisoner, portrays, prison’s no fun for anyone, but 45 days for driving under the influence of alcohol is hardly comparable with five years on death row followed by another 12 years in the general population for a crime you didn’t commit.

This is what Sonia (Sunny) Jacobs endured in Florida, USA. In 1976, 19-year-old Sunny and her husband, Jesse Tafero, were sentenced to death for the murder of two police officers. Sunny spent five years in isolation on death row, before an appeal successfully quashed her death sentence but held up her conviction with a life imprisonment sentence. During the next 12 years, Jesse was killed in the electric chair in a botched execution that sparked national controversy – it took three jolts of electricity to kill him as the headset conducting the current to his body caught fire. Sunny was not allowed to attend the funeral. Also during this time, her parents died in a plane crash on the way home from visiting her and her two children ended up in care. In 1992, Sunny and Jesse (posthumously) were exonerated.

We can only imagine how we might react in similar circumstances – personally I think I’d be one bitter, angry middle-aged woman full of hate and despair at having lost nearly 20 years of my life for something I didn’t even do. But Sunny’s completely the opposite. A couple of weeks ago, she visited Australia to promote her autobiography, Stolen Time. Amnesty International, in conjunction with the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, arranged for her to speak at a seminar protesting the death penalty. I’m glad I braved the torrential rain on that freezing cold, windy night because to hear her speak was incredibly inspiring. Rather than being consumed with hate and anger, she is filled with love – for life, her children and her new partner, John. During her time inside, she used meditation and a positive attitude to survive. It’s hard to believe you could still have a sense of humour after such an ordeal as hers, but at the seminar, she explained her current limp by joking about how after surviving a death sentence she had to something dramatic, so she got hit by a car. She’s Sunny by name and sunny by nature; a shining example of the strength of the human spirit and of compassion. The next time Ms Hilton whines about being deprived of her creature comforts for a couple of months, someone should give her a copy of Sunny’s book to read.

Stolen Time by Sunny Jacobs is published by Random House.

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