Meet the Bear Who Was Sentenced to Life in a Kazakh Prison

She was 21 years old when she entered the penal colony. On one horrible, inexplicable night, Katya viciously attacked an 11-year-old boy and a 28-year-old man. That night in 2004 changed her life forever, earning her a place of punishment and isolation.

She lived out her days behind bars at UK-161/2 penal colony in Kostanay, 435 miles northwest of Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-sultan, formerly Astana. There are 730 other dangerous criminals at UK-161/2, but Katya is unique among them all. For one thing, she was the only female prisoner and the only one serving a life sentence.

She was also the only prisoner who wasn’t human.

Katya (her full name is Ekaterina) is a brown bear. Her time at the Kazakh prison was just another unhappy chapter in her life. She was raised in a circus and then abandoned. The owners of a campsite took her in and kept her in a cage as an attraction for other campers. Despite the obvious conclusion that it would not be a good idea to approach a caged bear, two campers did. Katya’s response proved that she could not be left unattended. When authorities were unable to find a zoo that would be willing to take her she was sentenced to the penal colony to spend the rest of her life.

Her time at the penal colony changed her. Her sentence may have been harsh, but at least it wasn’t solitary confinement. She received regular visits from other prisoners. She was also given the singular privilege of having a swimming pool in her cell. Over time, she became a much more docile bear and earned the admiration of prisoners and guards alike. The prison authorities even erected a statue of her outside the walls of the facility.

Statue of Katya outside the entrance to the prison

She has been a model prisoner during her stay at UK-161/2. She has also been one of the least expensive prisoners to house. Because of her hibernation schedule, Katya only has to be fed seven months out of the year.

Katya’s model behavior did not go unnoticed. Despite having received a life sentence of imprisonment, she got a second chance. On June 5, 2019, her punishment was commuted. After serving 15 years of her sentence, she was released from prison and moved to new living quarters at a nearby zoo.

Her statue remains outside the prison walls as a reminder to everyone that even a vicious mauler of men can be rehabilitated.

The Horrifying Hanging of Mary, the Circus Elephant Who Was Executed for Murder

When the sentence of death is carried out, it is always noteworthy. Mary’s execution was no exception. This particular use of capital punishment attracted even more attention than usual. People gathered from near and far to see the killer meet her fate at the gallows. The reason for the keen public interest could be attributed…

Keep reading

Did a Monkey Get Hanged For Being a French Spy?

Just when we thought we had thoroughly combed the historical record and reported all interesting tidbits on a subject, we are reminded that there is no limit to strange stories from the past. In recent days, Commonplace Fun Facts has brought you the accounts of a town that placed a bunch of insects on trial…

Keep reading

Deliver Us From Weevils — The Time a Town Put a Bunch of Insects on Trial

Something was bugging the people of St. Julien. The “something” was a bug. A bunch of them, actually. Weevils were threatening the peace and prosperity of the French town. Criminal trespass to property. Destruction of property. Theft. Intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The offenses committed by the perpetrators made a list larger than…

Keep reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.