A 79-year-old Philadelphia man who has served over 60 years in prison for a crime that he committed when he was 16 has rejected an opportunity to immediately be put on parole – insisting instead that he deserved to be released outright.
Joseph Ligon is the oldest prison inmate who was incarcerated as a juvenile and given a life sentence for his involvement in the stabbing deaths of two men in Philadelphia 63 years ago, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
He has also served longer than any other ‘juvenile lifer,’ as they are called.
Yet a recent US Supreme Court decision which instituted a retroactive ban on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders offered him a way out of prison.
In hearing Montgomery v. Louisiana, the court held that mandatory sentencing of juveniles to life without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.
That decision prompted reviews for the approximately 300 inmates from Philadelphia who are eligible for re-sentencing.
But when Ligon was approached about a deal that would make him eligible for parole immediately, he declined.
‘His view is: He’s been in long enough,’ said Bradley Bridge, his defense attorney. ‘He doesn’t want to be on probation or parole. He just wants to be released.’
So far, 65 juvenile lifers have received offers to place them on immediate parole, while 26 more are due to be given new sentences.
Three other prisoners have formally rejected offers for re-sentencing, the Inquirer reported.
The offers of parole are in line with a 2012 law passed in Pennsylvania which requires authorities to impose minimum sentences of 35 years to life against juveniles found guilty in first-degree cases and 30 years to life for second-degree cases.
That essentially means that parole boards are the only ones that are empowered to release inmates – a situation critics say fails to retroactively apply the Supreme Court decision.