Back in the 1920s, ‘Pep – The Dog’ was sentenced to life imprisonment! He was a Labrador retriever!
How odd does it sound to hear that a dog was sentenced to life in prison? It is even more bizarre to hear that he was convicted for the offence of ‘murder’! While this might be a great plot to pen a book upon, this happened in reality.
Pep – a Labrador retriever was sentenced to life imprisonment in Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. What made this happen? That is an interesting story.
Back during the 1920s, the US prison system was not based on ‘reformation’ but ‘punishment’. And it was common practice to isolate that inmates of this prison as a way of punishing them for their crimes. This system of punishment affected the mental health of the prisoners, spreading gloom in the lives of those inside the prison. The then Governor of Pennsylvania, Gifford Pinchot wanted to change this. Enter Pep.
The Pinchot family had a black Labrador in their family – Pep. They bred Labradors. The idea that struck Governor Pinchot’s mind was to boost the morale of the prisoners and bring in a reformative system of punishment. He sentenced Pep for murdering his wife’s cat (Pep was innocent, though) and sent him inside the prison.
The prison authorities played along with this story and gave Pep a number like all the other inmates -C2559. Soon, Pep became the centre of attention. As he wandered freely in the prison premises, he boosted the morale of the prisoners inside.
However, not everyone knew that this was a fabricate tale with bonafide intentions. The local media reported this as a real story to put a black spot on the Governor’s name.
Today, this prison doesn’t exist. It was shut down in 1971. It is thrown open to the public as a historic site with the story of Pep written on its walls.
Many believe that it was Pep who inspired to bring about change in the United States’ system of punishment. In fact, there are a number of programmes today that involve human-animal interaction inside the prisons. Several studies that revolve around such programmes have shown success.
A beautiful story isn’t it? Who would have thought that a cute black dog could bring about such drastic change?