Triad man shares story of redemption, works to help people released from prison reenter society successfully

Buckley Report

(WGHP) — The effects of not having a father in a child’s life are truly astounding.

They are 9 times more likely to drop out of school and make up 75 percent of adolescents in chemical abuse centers, according to federal government statistics. That is 10 times more than the national average.

90 percent of all runaway children are from fatherless homes, which is 32 times the national average.

In this edition of the Buckley Report, Bob Buckley introduces us to a couple of men who show us you can reverse these trends.

If redemption had a name, it might well be Sammy Perez.

Things were tough for Perez, growing up. He never knew his father and raising him and his siblings proved to be too much for his mother.

“At that point, my mom actually made a phone call to Department of Social Services and asked them to come pick me up and I ended up being a ward of the state at that time and ended up growing up in juvenile group homes and in institutions,” Perez said.

I asked Perez what it does to a young man when his mother gives him up.

“Ah, man that’s probably one of the most difficult points in my life,” Perez said, reflecting on it. “Just being abandoned at that point, feeling lonely and hopeless, it – wow, it can really tear apart a kid. And even today, I have healing from a lot of trauma that that decision has caused. I was 15 years old and went to a maximum-security youth detention center and we spent, probably, 363 days of the year inside and it was tough – it was a tough environment. Lots of violence, feeling just scared, honestly, not knowing what the environment was going to bring – there was this certain culture, certain way of living.”

That, I tell him, must change someone forever.

“It does – it does follow you. I have a reentry saying that, ‘Reentry is a lifelong journey.’”

Reentry is what Perez knows a lot about. When he left prison, he earned his bachelor’s degree and is working on a master’s from Liberty University. He’s married and has four children.

On top of all that, Perez works with Prison Fellowship, a faith-based organization that helps others reenter society more successfully.

“I’ve learned there’s so much talent and so much potential in men and women who are behind bars and, oftentimes, the waste of that talent is because of a lack of opportunity,” Perez said. “Folks grow up in difficult situations and they end up making bad decisions and, for some, may cost them the rest of their lives.”

Perez said he comes with a certain credibility when he goes into a prison to counsel an inmate or tell them about the Academy that Prison Fellowship runs that helps people transition more effectively.

“I actually got an opportunity to go into the prison in which I was incarcerated,” Perez said. “The first time I got a chance to go in, a man came up to me and said, ‘I want to do what you do and I want to be like you,’ and, for me, that was really an eye-opening experience because I kind of realized that, without really speaking a word, being able to come in and provide an example, that in itself offered hope that they knew that they could actually go out and achieve something and prison wasn’t the end for them.”

See more of Perez’s story – and learn more about the value of having a father in your life – in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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