"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Joe Ligon: The Real Life 'Brooks' In The Movie Shawshank Redemption 1994

Outside his lawyer's office in Philadelphia is Joe Ligon after his February 11 release. Credit: CNN

oe Ligon has been featured by CNN to be one of the oldest and longest-serving juvenile lifer in the United States. He has been released on February 11, 2021 from a Pennsylvania prison after spending nearly seven decades behind bars.

Ligon was incarcerated in February 1953 at the age of 15, given a mandatory life sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a robbery and stabbing spree in Philadelphia with four other teenage boys. The crime left six people wounded and two people–identified by the Philadelphia Inquirer as Charles Pitts and Jackson Hamm–dead.

"I got caught up, in terms of being in the streets," Ligon told CNN after his release last week.

While a so-called degree of guilt hearing found Ligon guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and Ligon admitted to stabbing at least one of the eight people stabbed that day, his attorney Bradley Bridge told CNN that his client maintains he never killed anyone.

"The child that committed those crimes back in 1953 no longer exists. The person that came out of prison in 2021 is 83 years old, has grown, changed, and is no longer a threat," Bridge said. "He has amply repaid society for the damage and harm that he did. And now, it's appropriate that he spends the last years of his life in freedom."

"I'm a grownup now," Ligon said. "I'm not a kid anymore. Not only am I a grown man, I'm an old man and getting older every day."

Ligon's road to release has reminded me of the popular prison drama released in 1994, Shawshank Redemption. I count it among my all-time favorites and it is hard to believe that during its first screening some critics complained that the movie was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its story. Those unfounded complaints do not have any idea about enduring the passage of time like what Joe Ligon went through. Virtue of patience is the greatest treasure for any inmate.

Writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) tells in the movie the story of Brooks 'Brooksy' Hatlen who was an inmate at Shawshank State Prison from 1905 to 1955. Frank Darabont's 'Brooks' has come to life again, yet this time the oldest of them all–Joe Ligon. Here is a quote from the movie after Brooks was just starting his life again in the outside world:
“Dear fellas, I can't believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they're everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The parole board got me into this halfway house called "The Brewer" and a job bagging groceries at the Foodway. It's hard work and I try to keep up, but my hands hurt most of the time. I don't think the store manager likes me very much. Sometimes after work, I go to the park and feed the birds. I keep thinking Jake might just show up and say hello, but he never does. I hope wherever he is, he's doin' okay and makin' new friends. I have trouble sleepin' at night. I have bad dreams like I'm falling. I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they'd send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I'm too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don't like it here. I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I've decided not to stay. I doubt they'll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me. 
PS: Tell Heywood I'm sorry I put a knife to his throat. 
No hard feelings. 
Although Brooks and Joe are very much the same, they are also very different. Asked what it was like to be back in the world a day and a half after his release, Joe Ligon had this to say: "Beautiful," he said. "Beautiful." Brooks, however, will not find the world outside beautiful. The letter that we have read above is his note to his best of friends while he was in prison.

Credit: This story was first published on CNN.com 'After 68 years in prison, America's oldest juvenile lifer was released'