The PA Juvenile Justice Task Force issued its final recommendations to overhaul the juvenile justice system on June 21, 2021.
YSRP’s work supporting Mr. Joe Ligon, and the tireless commitment of Reentry Coordinator John Pace and Senior Advisor Eleanor Myers, was featured in reporters Heather Law and Evan Simko-Bednarski’s story of Mr. Ligon on February 17, 2021. Mr. Ligon left prison after 68 years of incarceration, at the age of 83, on February 11, 2021.
John Pace, himself a former Juvenile Lifer, sheds light on the experience of leaving prison after a lengthy period of incarceration, and his approach to navigating this next phase of Mr. Ligon’s life with him:
‘You’re in a prison environment where there’s not a lot of stimulation. You’re not allowed to have contact with people. Your interactions are very limited. And so, there’s not a lot of stimulation,’ said Pace. ‘So now you come out of prison, and just imagine all this, you can do what you want now. And what do you do with that?’
Bridge, Pace and several others have been working with Ligon to weather the shock of entering a new world. This included finding Ligon housing via domiciliary care, where he has been living with a Philadelphia family that has played a role in assisting in the reentry process.
‘There will always be people who think Joe should be in jail for the rest of his life,’ Pace said. ‘Joe has control over how he demonstrates who he is today, and he hopes that’s enough to help other people realize how he’s trying to help other people use better judgment.’
Ligon said he wanted others to learn from his experience.
‘I’m really looking forward to pleasing people and help people the way they’re helping me,’ Ligon said, adding, ‘meeting some of the younger generation, with some of the older generation, and some of the reporters … to share some of my story.’
Asked what it was like to be back in the world a day and a half after his release, Ligon had this to say: ‘Beautiful,’ he said. ‘Beautiful.’