Jason changes from a bank-robbing lifestyle
Volunteers of America of Indiana Staff Help Jason Bradley Build a New Life for Him and His Family
Jason Bradley lives in Indianapolis, is happily married to his beautiful wife Tina, has a great job and life is going very well for him. This life is a far cry from the old life he had growing up Buffalo, New York.
To the casual observer Jason’s childhood years in Buffalo were quite normal. In fact, Jason described his early childhood as “beautiful, with a lot of love in the house.” However, all was not as it seemed. “I looked up to my uncles,” Jason pointed out “I wanted to be just like them.” But the young and impressionable Jason later understood that some of those relatives whom he admired so much were involved in criminal activity…as he described it “pimps and gangsters.” It was many years later before the impact of those early years would reveal itself.
Jason was 30 years old when he committed his first crime. He robbed a bank! “I could hardly believe how easy it was!” he exclaimed. He had developed a fascination with the life his uncles led. “To me it was glamorous!” Before long Jason was pulling off local bank heists on a regular basis. “It became addictive to me; I was so good at it, I took it on the road. I went from city to city robbing banks.” Jason would wear various disguises, from wigs to mailman or security guard uniforms. He lived a double life. He had a full time job and lived at home with his first wife. Hitting two banks while on his lunch break and going right back to work was something Jason did with ease. Jason thought of himself as a “Robin Hood” kind of bandit. “I enjoyed giving the money away to people who needed it! It would make me feel better about what I was doing. It made me feel like God, feeding my people.”
Jason’s bank robbing days ended when the police found him after a bank robery in a near by store where he had stoped to change out of his disguise. It was soon determined that Jason was the suspect that law enforcement had been searching for over the past eight years. Jason was sentenced to sixteen years in a federal penitentiary.
“I had a lot of time to think about what I had done and I was determined to change.”
Jason chose to serve his sentence without visits from family or friends. “I didn’t want anyone to see me locked up,” he said. He studied and received a Bachelor’s Degree and volunteered his time teaching and counseling other young men in prison.
Prior to his release into the community, Jason was sent to Volunteers of America to complete his sentence. He remembers vividly the cold winter day when he arrived at Brandon Hall, the Volunteers of America work-release facility for men. “I had slippers on and my feet were cold.” He recalled the entire process, the pat down, the breathalyzer test, the paper work. “But what stands out in my mind was how warm the building was and I remember thinking to myself, this is a new beginning.”
Cliff Graham was Jason’s case manager at VOA. “As a client, Jason was compliant with our program. He participated at a level to be emulated by all clients,” said Cliff. “Even as a criminal, I was never a follower,” Jason said, “so I buckled down and tried to learn as much as I could from the VOA staff.” His greatest challenge however, was finding a job. “I did not have any form of ID so it was hard for me.” Jason said. He was visibly moved as he recounted with gratitude the enormous effort put out by his case manager to help him to get his birth certificate so he could apply for a drivers’ license. “We ran into so many obstacles, but Mr. Graham made phone call after phone call to help me get my birth certificate until finally he found someone who could help.” Jason remembered also the efforts to get him a job made by Robert Franklin, VOA Employment Specialist.
“All the classes were helpful to me, even the drug addiction classes because we were all struggling with emotional issues of one kind or another.”
Jason likened his love for money to an addiction. “I had no respect for that money, I would just blow it! A man that goes to work everyday and earns an honest paycheck will value that money much more.”
Jason felt confident when he was released from Volunteers of America. It had been seventeen years since he had seen his parents and he was ready to face them. Today, Jason still works at the same job he found while at VOA. He has since been promoted and is held in high regard by his co-workers. He is frequently called upon to speak at local groups sharing his story and motivating others.
“VOA was the only family I had. They were patient with me and I could not have made it without them.” Jason and Cliff would always end each conversation they had with the words “it will get greater, later”. Today, those words have proven to be true.