Home NEWS After 68 years in jail, America's oldest juvenile lifer was launched

After 68 years in jail, America’s oldest juvenile lifer was launched

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Ligon was incarcerated in February 1953 on the age of 15, given a compulsory life sentence after pleading responsible to costs stemming from a theft and stabbing spree in Philadelphia with 4 different teenage boys. The crime left six folks wounded and two folks — recognized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as Charles Pitts and Jackson Hamm — lifeless.

“I received caught up, when it comes to being within the streets,” Ligon instructed CNN after his launch final week.

Whereas a so-called diploma of guilt listening to discovered Ligon responsible of two counts of first-degree homicide, and Ligon admitted to stabbing a minimum of one of many eight folks stabbed that day, his lawyer Bradley Bridge instructed CNN that his consumer maintains he by no means killed anybody.

“The kid that dedicated these crimes again in 1953 now not exists. The individual that got here out of jail in 2021 is 83 years previous, has grown, modified, and is now not a risk,” Bridge mentioned. “He has amply repaid society for the injury and hurt that he did. And now, it is acceptable that he spends the final years of his life in freedom.”

“I am a grownup now,” Ligon mentioned. “I am not a child anymore. Not solely am I a grown man, I am an previous man and getting older on daily basis.”

Ligon’s highway to launch has been an extended one.

Within the Seventies, Ligon and his accomplices have been granted the choice of clemency from Pennsylvania’s governor. Whereas two of the boys selected to just accept the provide, clemency meant being on parole, which Ligon rejected.

Rejecting parole

He turned down one other provide of parole in 2017, after a ruling by the US Supreme Courtroom made him eligible.

A yr earlier than, in 2016, the court docket had determined that Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 case during which obligatory juvenile life sentences with out the prospect of parole have been deemed illegal, must be utilized retroactively. The choice successfully resentenced Ligon to 35 years to life, and made him eligible for parole since he had been in jail for over 60 years.

However Ligon rejected the provide once more, stating parole wouldn’t grant him the liberty he desired after a long time in jail.

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“The state parole board presumably would have launched him however provided that he could be below their supervision for the remainder of his life,” Bridge mentioned. “He selected to not search parole below these phrases.”

Bridge, who has represented Ligon for 15 years now, in the end argued {that a} obligatory life sentence for a criminal offense Ligon dedicated as a juvenile was unconstitutional. After a failed listening to on the Pennsylvania intermediate appellate court docket, Bridge managed to deliver the case to the federal court docket and received the problem in November 2020, which in the end granted Ligon freedom below his personal phrases in 2021.

Now that Ligon is out of jail, his work reentering society has begun.

John Tempo, a former inmate and present reentry coordinator for the Philadelphia-based Youth Sentencing & Reentry Undertaking (YSRP), mentioned he is been working with Ligon to assist him land on his ft.

Tempo was solely 17 years previous when he, himself, was incarcerated for mugging and assaulting a person. He spent the subsequent 31 years imprisoned. After being launched, Tempo mentioned he felt a kind of illness after abruptly being uncovered to his new actuality.

Coming into a brand new world

“You are in a jail atmosphere the place there’s not numerous stimulation. You are not allowed to have contact with folks. Your interactions are very restricted. And so, there’s not numerous stimulation,” mentioned Tempo. “So now you come out of jail, and simply think about all this, you are able to do what you need now. And what do you do with that?”

Bridge, Tempo and a number of other others have been working with Ligon to climate the shock of getting into a brand new world.

This included discovering Ligon housing through domiciliary care, the place he has been residing with a Philadelphia household that has performed a job in helping within the reentry course of.

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“There’ll at all times be individuals who assume Joe must be in jail for the remainder of his life,” Tempo mentioned. “Joe has management over how he demonstrates who he’s at present, and he hopes that is sufficient to assist different folks understand how he is making an attempt to assist different folks use higher judgment.”

Ligon mentioned he needed others to study from his expertise.

“I am actually wanting ahead to pleasing folks and assist folks the way in which they’re serving to me,” Ligon mentioned, including, “assembly a few of the youthful technology, with a few of the older technology, and a few of the reporters … to share a few of my story.”

Requested what it was wish to be again on the planet a day and a half after his launch, Ligon had this to say:

“Stunning,” he mentioned. “Stunning.”

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