Published on: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Joe Ligon, the nation’s oldest, longest-serving juvenile lifer was released from prison this month at age 83. He served 68 years in a Pennsylvania prison after he was sentenced to life without parole at a one-day trial in 1953, the Washington Post reports. Mr. Ligon was 15 years old at the time of the crime (article available here).

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatic life terms for kids are cruel and unusual, he was one of more than 500 Pennsylvania prisoners all resentenced to terms contingent on lifetime parole. Yet, Pennsylvania refused to apply the ruling retroactively. Another ruling in 2016 ordered the state and others to do so.

Ligon had turned down a chance to be released after the 2016 ruling because the offer included a parole requirement. Ligon said he deserved to be free with no restrictions. As a result, he stayed in prison until a judge ruled in November that he should be released within 90 days.