Igniting the Flame

Amy Fly makes the most of her time at Oxford

From abroad, Amy Fly ’15 eyes the American death penalty

by Celeste Hippolyte ’15

Like many Dickinson sophomores, law & policy major Amy Fly ’15 sat in her advisor’s office last year looking for an invigorating study-abroad program for her junior year.

“My advisor, [Associate Professor of Political Science] Doug Edlin, who absolutely loves Oxford, having taught and studied there, told me about the [Dickinson at Oxford] program and insisted I apply,” Fly says.

Now Fly is at Oxford's Mansfield College, and her engagement in the Oxford culture ended up unearthing one of her own home-grown passions after she attended a lecture given by SAFE (Savings Accountability Full Enforcement) California, an inmate advocacy group focused on the state’s death-row prisoners.

“I have always been passionately against the death penalty from a human dignity standpoint,” Fly says. “This, in combination with my studies of the subject both at Dickinson and Oxford … has inspired me to turn that passion into action.” And she has done just that.

Fly recently initiated a partnership between Mansfield College and a small London-based legal charity called Amicus, which focuses its efforts on helping those facing the death penalty. After gaining student and faculty support, and funding from both Mansfield and Dickinson, Fly is now one of nine students working with Amicus on U.S. death-penalty cases from the UK.

While she has always been passionate about the injustices of the death penalty, she gives credit to Dickinson and Oxford for supplying her with the tools and the intellectual vocabulary to support her passion and ignite her activist flame. Amicus, she says, has provided her with an opportunity she’s been trying to grasp since her first year in college.

“My first two years at Dickinson, I spent a lot of time searching for opportunities to get involved in capital-punishment abolition, applying for internships and reaching out to various organizations hoping to be accepted as a volunteer,” she says, noting that most groups took on only graduate or law-school students. Amicus, on the other hand, has volunteers ready to train students passionate about the cause, regardless of experience.

Fly’s training so far has involved lessons on the American legal system and a practical training, which has consisted of workshops and hands-on work with capital-case clients and expert witnesses.

“Amicus is arming these students with the ability to truly make a difference in whether someone lives or dies,” says Fly, who was accepted into the Amicus internship program for summer 2015. Now treasurer of Oxford Women in Politics and working to start a Human Rights Society at Mansfield, Fly hopes to transport her experience and research at Oxford and Amicus to the U.S., and possibly start a similar program at Dickinson.

“I think this experience will cultivate my passion for human rights advocacy and lead me down that direction as I pursue a profession in the legal field,” she says. “I wasn't quite sure what area of law I wanted to practice, but this is certainly pointing me in a particular direction.”

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Published April 1, 2014