Almost seven decades is the time that the American Joe Ligon, 83, has spent in prison and now seeks to rebuild his life after being released and becoming the person who has spent the longest time behind bars in EE. UU., after having been detained when I was a minor.
Joe Ligon entered prison in February 1953 at the age of 15, serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to multiple charges related to a robbery and stabbing of multiple people in Philadelphia along with four other teens.
During that event, at least two people died and six were injured.
“I got involved, unintentionally, in terms of being on the street”Ligon told CNN television after being released from prison last week.
The then teenager, who admitted to having stabbed at least one person, was found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree, although his lawyer, Bradley Bridge, said in statements to that channel that his client maintains that he never killed anyone.
The Washington Post newspaper recalled this Friday, February 19, that this son of sharecroppers from Alabama has spent a total of 68 years in prison, during which he has spent six correctional institutions.
During his trial, which only lasted one day in 1953, Joe Ligon and the other defendants were described as people of “color” and he was imprisoned in a penitentiary called “Pennsylvania Institution for Defective Offenders”, where inmates who were classified as “mentally defective with criminal tendencies” were admitted.
In this time the world has changed a lot: Ligon entered prison with Republican Dwight Eisenhower in the White House (1953-1961), in the middle of the Cold War, and has taken to the streets with Democrat Joe Biden as president, in the middle of a global pandemic.
“The boy who committed these crimes in 1953 no longer exists. The person who has been released from prison in 2021 is 83 years old, has grown, changed and is not a threat, ”his lawyer told CNN. “He has amply repaired the damage he did to society,” he continued, “and now it is appropriate for him to spend the last years of his life in freedom.
The painful road to freedom
The road to the desired freedom has been long and painful. In the 1970s, Joe Ligon and the other youths arrested were granted clemency by the then governor of Pennsylvania, And just as his two companions accepted, the now octogenarian rejected it because it was parole.
In the same way, he repeatedly rejected other opportunities to obtain the conditional freedom, as he may have been under supervision for the rest of his life, according to his lawyer.
Finally, Bridge, who has represented him for fifteen years, argued that life in prison for a crime committed when Ligon was a minor was unconstitutional, and he managed to present the case before a federal court, which agreed with him last November.
Already out of jail, Joe Ligon He faces the challenge of reintegrating himself into society, after having spent most of his life locked up, and without having faced everyday situations such as having a job, paying rent for an apartment or electricity bills.
However, he is not alone, as he continues to receive help from his attorney and the Philadelphia-based Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, which helps people in his situation.
The first thing has been to find him accommodation through a program that has found a family to live in, in his reintegration process.
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