Joe Ligon was thrown in prison at only 15 years after taking part in a string of robberies and assaults that resulted in the death of two people. Six others were left dealing with stab wounds.
However, he has always maintained that he never killed anyone. That did not stop him from spending almost 7 decades behind bars.
Luckily, he was recently released at the age of 83 from Phoenix State Correctional Institution in Montgomery County in February 2021.
Decades in prison turned him into the oldest juvenile life in US jails. After his release, he was "amazed" by the skyscrapers he saw around him in Philadelphia.
Following his release, Philadelphia's Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) has been trying to ensure that the elderly man gets the right transition into civilian life. They are well aware that 68 years in jail is no joke.
Eleanor Myers, a senior advisor at YSRP, commented on the matter. She notes that it is not just the world that has changed while Mr. Ligon was in prison; "he has also changed."
She explained that the man looked upbeat about the new phase of his life:
"He is incredibly cheerful and amazed at the changes in Philadelphia since 1953, in particular the tall buildings."
Soon after he was released, he spoke about wanting to see the city again because it had changed so much. The tall buildings were all new to him and "never existed" the last time he was a free man.
He Misses Those Who Passed While He Was Away
Mr. Ligon also talked about his family and those who have passed while he was away and could not attend his homecoming. It seems that these people have a special place in his heart.
A large community of juvenile lifers knew Joe for many years in prison. Without a doubt, these folks will become his new friends and supporters.
Another juvenile lifer, John Pace, freed from life sentence four years ago, has known Ligon for years. John later became a reentry coordinator at the YSRP.
While discussing his work with Ligon, John Pace admitted that he had only been with him for three days and was trying to take it slow with him and give him time to adjust to his new world rather than "try to figure it all out it one day."
John explained that he tried to settle his nerves by keeping him around familiar people while slowly introducing him to new things. Fortunately, John could draw from his own reentry experience after several years in prison.
Ligon also shares with him his preferences about life on the outside.
Before his release, Ligon used to watch news programs on a small TV in his cell as a way to prepare for the life outside:
"I like my chances. I really like my chances in terms of surviving."
Without a doubt, watching the news was not enough preparation for the kind of life Ligon would face once on the outside. However, with a previous lifer showing him the way, Ligon might find the transition to normal life much easier.