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Mon Feb 22, 2021, 05:18 PM

Lifestyle: He's looking forward to 'a better everything' Locked up at age 15, Joe Ligon became ... [View all]


He’s looking forward to ‘a better everything’

Locked up at age 15, Joe Ligon became the nation’s longest-serving juvenile ‘lifer.’ Now, at 83, he’s finally free — and reentering an unfamiliar world.

By Karen Heller
Photos by Michael S. Williamson
FEBRUARY 19, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — On a snow-flecked morning earlier this month, Joe Ligon stepped from his lawyer’s car, his gait deliberate yet steady, his hair as white as down. A few hours before, he had eaten a breakfast of pancakes, two bowls of cereal, no milk, his final meal in prison.

“This is no sad day for me,” he said. “Feel real good. Like a dream come true. I anticipated this from Day One.” ... What was Ligon looking forward to? “A better everything.”

The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Ligon entered prison when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. During the 68 years he spent incarcerated in a half-dozen penal institutions, the world outside moved on. At the one-day trial in 1953, Ligon and his co-defendants were referred to as “colored.” At school, his special-education classes were designated for the “orthogenically backward.” He was incarcerated in a facility named the Pennsylvania Institution for Defective Delinquents, the inmates classified by the courts “as mentally defective with criminal tendencies.”

Ligon, 83, has never had his own place, paid a bill, cast a ballot, earned the minimum wage, lived with a partner, fathered children. ... While he was locked up, almost all of his family died; many of the men were murdered. A sister, some nieces and nephews are all he has left. This was his central sadness: “It would have been much better if I had come out when my parents were still alive,” he said.


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Reply Lifestyle: He's looking forward to 'a better everything' Locked up at age 15, Joe Ligon became ... [View all]
mahatmakanejeeves Feb 22 OP
Joinfortmill Feb 22 #1