My nephew J came to Philly for a visit, and what better place to take a teenage boy than Eastern State Penitentiary. Opened in 1829, ESP was unusual in that instead of just locking up criminals as punishment, it sought to rehabilitate them. Inmates were kept in near constant solitude, the better to reflect on their crimes, repent, and hopefully become reformed. Naturally nothing of the sort happened, and in 1913 solitary confinement was officially abandoned. The prison remained opened until 1970 with some colorful convicts passing through, including Al Capone who was given his own jazzy cell. Today the crumbling ESP is a tourist destination with plenty of to see and learn.
For instance, among the inmates was one of the canine persuasion. Pep, a black Lab, was admitted to ESP on August 12, 1924, after receiving a sentence of life with no parole. His crime? Killing the beloved cat that belonged to the wife of PA Governor Gifford Pinchot. He was even issued an inmate number: C-2559. True story? No one knows for sure. According to some, Governor Pinchot donated his dog to keep up morale among the inmates. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between the two versions. Pep did, however, reside in ESP for ten years or so.
Is this the face of a hardened criminal or an innocent victim? ESP literature claims that in his mug shot Pep looks guilty. Not to me. Those sad eyes belong to someone unfairly accused and with no way of proving his innocence. Anyone know a good lawyer?