America’s longest-serving juvenile lifer who spent 68 years in jail has finally walked free.
83-year-old Joseph Ligon stepped out of federal prison after his attorney managed to successfully convince the court that the life sentence was unconstitutional.
Even though most people from his life before jail are already gone, Ligon is not alone as Philadelphia’s Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) has been working hard to give him a smooth transition into post-prison life.
Eleanor Myers, a senior adviser at YSRP, said as per Daily Mail: “As much as the world has changed since Mr Ligon first went to prison, he has also changed. His experience in coming back is basically as a new man.
“He is incredibly cheerful and amazed at the changes in Philadelphia since 1953, in particular the tall buildings. He has talked about those in his family who are gone and cannot be together for his homecoming. He seems to miss them especially.
“There is a large community of juvenile lifers who knew Joe for many years in prison. They will undoubtedly become his new circle of friends and supporters.”
John Pace, a reentry coordinator at YSRP who was also released from a life sentence four years ago, has known Ligon for years.
“I have been with him in the three days since his release, and I have tried to take it slow with him and allow him to take in the new environment, and not try to figure it all out in one day,” he told Daily Mail.
“I have tried to settle his nerves or emotions by helping him to be around familiar people and slowly introduce him to new things – drawing on my own reentry experience while still allowing him with share with me what it is that he wants.”
Joseph Ligon was only 15 year sold when he was sentenced to life in prison for being involved in a string of assaults and robberies with a group of teens in Philadelphia.
Public defender Bradley Bridge said that Ligon’s case shows the excesses of the criminal justice system.
“We waste people’s lives by over-incarcerating and we waste money by over-incarcerating,” he said.
“His case graphically demonstrates the absurdity of wasting each,” Bridge continued.
“Hopefully his release, and the release of the juvenile lifers in general, will cause a re-evaluation of the way we incarcerate people.”
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