The oldest juvenile lifer who walked free from jail at 83 has reportedly said he was astounded by skyscrapers and mourns his family members who have since departed.
Joseph Ligon was only 15 when he was imprisoned for life for murder following a spree of robberies and attacks with a group of inebriated teenagers in Philadelphia, US.
During that spate of violence two people were left dead – Charles Pitts, 60, and Jackson Hamm, 65, and six others were injured from stab wounds.
Imprisoned in 1953, Joseph Ligon refused to apply for parole as he denied ever killing anyone.
After an astonishing 68 years behind bars, making him the oldest juvenile lifer in the country, he finally walked free from the State Correctional Institution Phoenix last week.
On his release, he is said to be in awe of the new world and the towering skyline, as he took his first steps into a completely different America than when he went inside, and he said that he found it unsettling that Eastern State Penitentiary, where he was once incarcerated, was now a museum and Halloween attraction, and he said that it didn’t suit his tastes.
Illiterate at the age of 15, Ligon is said to believe he was scapegoated as the new kid, the outsider, at the time of the offending, and speaking to a news outlet Eleanor Myers, a senior adviser said that as much as the world has evolved since Mr Ligon first went to jail, he has also changed, and that his experience in coming back was primarily as a new man.
She said that he’s amazingly cheerful and amazed at the differences in Philadelphia since 1953, in particular the towering buildings.
She said that he’s spoken about those in his family who are gone and can’t be together for his homecoming and that he appeared to miss them especially.
Ligon’s route to his release has been complicated and was made possible after his sentence was reduced in 2017 to include the chance of parole, which he declined.
The Supreme Court had decreed in 2012 that inflicting mandatory life sentences on juveniles was unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania was among some states that refused to reduce the life sentences, however, it took four more years before they were ordered to retroactively reduce sentences for those given life terms for juvenile offences.
After that judgment, the state of Pennsylvania re-sentenced Ligon along with more than 500 other juvenile lifers to reduced prison terms that included lifetime parole.
This sounds pretty much like the Kalief Browder story. Kalief Browder was an African American youth from The Bronx, New York, who was detained at the Rikers Island jail complex, without trial, between 2010 and 2013 for supposedly robbing a backpack containing valuables.
During his incarceration, Kalief Browder was in solitary confinement for two years.
Two years after his release, Kalief Browder killed himself at his parents home.
His case has been cited by activists fighting for a change in the New York City criminal justice system and has drawn extensive attention in the years following his death and in 2017, Jay-Z produced a television documentary mini-series titled Time: The Kalief Browder Story.
In January 2019, New York City settled a civil lawsuit with the Browder family for $3.3 million.
Ligon’s case was an unusual one. He declined the chance of parole because he insisted he was innocent, so this has to be considered that he may well have been telling the truth.
In the 50s numerous people of various races were wrongfully condemned for offences they did. Of course, I’m not implying this was the case with Ligon, but it was a possibility, and you have to question the parole refusal.
Now, this man has been in jail for so long, will he cope in the outside world? What life has he got left? And will he be able to start his life again at his age, it’s like being a fish out of water, and so alone, and at his age, freedom has no meaning.
Perhaps he was innocent, but they sent him to jail anyhow. But whether he was innocent or not, that’s something we’ll never know.