William T. Bradley's resume shows a wide range of blue collar and white collar experience, topped off by a bachelor's degree in public administration. For thirteen years, he served as a para-teacher, helping to prepare students in English and mathematics for their GED examinations. His resume also includes blue collar work in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. He installed air-conditioning wiring, diagnosed system malfunctions, performed general maintenance and even handled brazing and welding for copper piping. As a library assistant, he helped patrons with research.
Lots of credentials. Lots of experience. And all of it earned behind bars while serving a 30-year-prison term. "Prisons are a microcosm of the external society," said Bradley, of South Philadelphia. "People have jobs. People perform different roles. It's a smaller snapshot of the every day world and people find a way to justify their existence, to give their lives meaning and worth. You are paid very small wages which allow you to take care of your personal expenses."
Thirty years in prison have given Bradley, now in his early 60s, enough time to thoroughly examine his heart and to understand all the factors that influenced him, wrongly, so many years ago. His crimes included robbery, burglary and sexual assault. The man he was then, is not, he said, the man he is now. Not even close. "You just want a second chance," he said.
"You are putting the past in the past and you are looking for acceptance, at all times, to prove that those things that happened in the past will not happen again," he said. Bradley was released in January 2010. In June he landed a job working as a telephone surveyor, but was laid off in February when the company lost a key contract.
Bradley feels that the ideal job for him would include mentoring others who have been released from prison. "I do feel a moral and social obligation to be a success story," he said. Word of his success will get back to the people he knows in prison. "If someone they know who has spent so much time with them is a success," it will encourage them, he said.
Employment is key, he said. "When people are released from prison, they have great expectations and so many of them want to do the right thing, but as they find doors slammed on a daily basis, it's easy to slip back," especially when they need money to support their families.
These days, Bradley volunteers everywhere he can, in hopes that proving his reliability as a volunteer will lead some nonprofit to employ him full time. He writes, edits, and proofreads for Graterfriends, a publication put out by the Pennsylvania Prison Society aimed at inmates, their families and others connected to Graterford prison. He is also working on his typing skills. He is hanging his hopes, in part, on PECO, a company, he said, with some hiring managers who have been able to see him as a person and not just as an ex-con.
"I'm just trying to stay busy and positive every day," he said. "I really do believe there's a job for me."
The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.