Joe Ligon aged 15 pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1953.
Shortly before, this African-American had joined a gang that in the city of Philadelphia carried out assaults and robberies in which there were two stabbing deaths.
Although he always assured that he did not perpetrate those murders, he spent 68 years in jail.
A few days ago, at the age of 83, he left the Pennsylvania detention center (northwestern United States), where he was being held, according to CNN and the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which christened him “the oldest juvenile delinquent in the United States ”.
Ligon’s life was hard before he went to prison, too.
He grew up on a farm in Alabama, and when he came to Philadelphia, he still had many difficulties to read.
Back then, the levels of poverty, unemployment and racism were high. Under these circumstances, the young man decided to leave the educational system.
The gang he joined was made up of teenagers with similar socioeconomic conditions.
His arrest took place in 1953 and the sentence to life imprisonment was imposed that same year.
The nation’s oldest juvenile lifer, Joe Ligon, left a Pa. prison after 68 years – we waste lives and money by overincarcerating says lawyer Bradley Bridge @PhillyDefenders #reimaginejustice https://t.co/cCKX3dSe2S via @phillyinquirer
– JJI (@JJInitiative) February 13, 2021
The Philadelphia Inquirer report includes some details of the time Ligon spent in jail.
During his nearly seven decades behind bars, he was improving his cleaning skills.
He finished learning to read and write, as well as training as a boxer.
Different attorneys suggested that he apply for parole, but he refused to do so over and over again.
In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that life sentences could not be given to minors, a decision that ended up being applied retroactively.
Both Ligon and others in his situation received the offer to benefit from probation for life, something that he declined.
The 83-year-old man, on the other hand, managed to have his sentence considered served after a long legal battle in which he received the help of a lawyer from the Philadelphia Defense Lawyers Association, a non-profit organization that works to modify the juvenile justice system.
And when Ligon achieved freedom and stopped being the “America’s oldest juvenile offender”, the first thing that surprised him was the size of the buildings.
“All this did not exist, it is new for me,” he said.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.