Juvenile offender, 83, finally out of prison after 68 years is ‘amazed’ by new world
A man who went to prison when he was just 15-years-old has finally walked free after 68 years behind bars.
Joseph Ligon, 83, has been left “amazed” after stepping out into the world.
The ex-criminal spent nearly seven decades in prison after being jailed for life after being convicted of murdering two people.
After being released, he is now mourning the death of loved ones who have died since his conviction.
He was sent behind bars after a spree of robberies and attacks with a group of drunken 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.
Jailed in 1953, Ligon refused to apply for parole as he denies ever killing anyone, reports The Mirror.
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 an entirely different America than when he went inside.
He told the Philadelphia Inquirer : “I’m looking at all the tall buildings. This is all new to me. This never existed.”
He found it “unsettling” that Eastern State Penitentiary, where he was once imprisoned, is now a museum and Halloween attraction.
He said: “That don’t suit my 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.
On his release Philadelphia’s Youth Sentencing & Re-entry Project (YSRP) has been working to help with his transition into post-prison life.
Speaking to the Mail Online Eleanor Myers, a senior adviser, said: “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.”
Ligon’s path to his release has been complex, and was made possible after his sentence was reduced in 2017 to include the possibility of parole, which he refused.
The Supreme Court had ruled in 2012 that imposing mandatory life sentences on juveniles was unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania was among some states that refused to reduce the life sentences, however, and it took four more years before they were ordered to retroactively reduce sentences for those given life terms for juvenile crimes.
After that ruling the state of Pennsylvania re-sentenced Ligon along with more than 500 other ‘juvenile lifers’ to reduced prison terms that included lifetime parole.
In November, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office ordered Ligon either be re-sentenced or released within 90 days.
On February 11, Ligon finally walked free from prison after the ruling.