skip to Main Content

YSRP in The Inquirer: The Nation’s Oldest Juvenile Lifer, Joe Ligon, Left a PA Prison after 68 Years

Reporter Samantha Melamed of The Inquirer published the first story about Mr. Joe Ligon’s homecoming following his 68 years of incarceration, at the age of 83. With photographer Jessica Griffin, they captured Mr. Ligon’s first moments of freedom and his visit to his attorney Bradley Bridge’s office at The Defender Association in Center City Philadelphia. The front-page story details Mr. Ligon’s early life, as well as his determination to fight for his full freedom, and the circumstances that led to his actual release on February 11, 2021.

The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project was also featured in this story:

[Mitigation specialist Billi] Charron, [YSRP Reentry Coordinator John] Pace, and Eleanor Myers, a senior advisor at YSRP, volunteered to assist — a process that ultimately included support from 10 city agencies, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and various nonprofit organizations. Philadelphia’s Reentry Coalition directed Myers to Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, which found Ligon a place in domiciliary care, a foster-care-like accommodation with a family in Philadelphia.

‘Then we had to figure out how to pay for it,’ said Myers. The Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services agreed to cover the first year, while a benefits specialist is helping to get Social Security lined up after that. A modest crowdfunding campaign helped cover incidentals. (Update: After Ligon’s release, organizers had to cut off donations for fear the income would make him ineligible for benefits.)

‘We have this extraordinary community that has rallied to make this happen,’ Myers said.

Pace, meanwhile, picked out sweaters and socks he thought Ligon would like. He found a phone with no data plan, figuring Ligon won’t need it. He drove around the neighborhood where Ligon will be staying, checking out the parks and other attractions so he can show Ligon around. And, he solicited advice from other long-serving former lifers. ‘Just take it slow with Joe,’ they advised.

When Pace, 52, first came home nearly four years ago, he felt physically ill from the overstimulation — a sort of emotional equivalent of the bends. ‘Let’s say mine was on a 2. His is going to be on a 10,’ Pace said. ‘He’s been locked up so long, everything changed.’

Back To Top