The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” The angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron-gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Acts 12:6-10
Thursday, March 7, 2019 was just another typical day in the Racine, Wisconsin County Jail. I got up, went to work until the evening (Two weeks before I no longer worked third shift laundry, but a first shift janitorial job), ate my three meals, read a little, and went to bed around 10 pm, thinking to myself that 4 am when the lights turned on was going to come quickly. But I was used to it by now, after spending the past 202 days in this facility. Around 3 am I woke up abruptly to use the bathroom, and thought to myself I have one more hour to sleep. I laid back down, and not more than five minutes later, when I was just about to doze off, an officer came on the loud speaker in the pod and said, “Perino, pack up!” I sat up, confused, thought I was hearing something with ear plugs in my ears, and asked myself, did he just tell me to pack up? I immediately got my sandals on and went to the door. The guard working third shift let me out and asked me what was going on. I told him I had no clue and that I wasn’t supposed to leave for another two and half months. He knew that, too.
Then the negative side of me started kicking in. I thought to myself that I was going to be charged a third time for the crimes I committed and was going to go to another county to serve even more time. I was confused and bewildered and thought that this cannot be happening. The officer called me over to his desk. He looked me up on the computer, and sure enough, it said that I was being released to the streets. I was shocked! But of course I was still having doubts. Hardly anything in the past 6 years had ever gone my way, so I thought something can’t be right. Is this a joke? Am I going to be handcuffed as soon as I walk downstairs or step outside?
I walked back inside my pod. Shaking, I quickly packed all my stuff together. A few of the other inmates that were awake were in shock, too. In each pod there is a release date list. My name was around the eighth one on the list and it said May 20. The phone system also said May 20. I got my things, met the officer by the door and was escorted downstairs, while picking up one other guy for a release at the same time. I still thought this was some kind of joke. Sure enough when I made it down the elevator, my bag full of personal belongings and clothes were there for me. That was when I realized this is really happening. I’m really leaving this place and it is finally going to be over. I still was so confused and kept asking myself “how could this be?” I couldn’t stop shaking. When I got downstairs, the officers knew me, and were asking me what was going on, knowing that I was not supposed to be released for a few more months. I told them I was being released. They were as happy as I was and none of them double-checked anything to see if a mistake actually did occur. They wanted to get me out of there also.
I told them that I needed to call my parents in St. Louis, so they could come and pick me up. One officer, who didn’t know me well asked, “Why didn’t you set up a ride ahead of time?” I started laughing and said, “I really didn’t know I was being released two and half months early?” When the officer called my parents and told them the news, my dad was so confused that he actually called back asking if this was a hoax and if this was for real.
Within 25 minutes of being waked up, I signed my release papers and was walking out the door. I absolutely could not believe it! After 6 years of being incarcerated in three different prisons, two county jails, countless letters written to attorneys and judges, on Friday, March 8, 2019, at 3:30 am……a day I’ll never forget….. I was a free man!
As I left the jail, all I could do was thank God over and over again. This truly was a miracle from God. There is no explanation of how this happened. All the paperwork, the computers, the phone……everything stated that my release date was not until May. But sure enough, God had other plans. He decided that my work there and in the judicial system was finally complete, and it was time for me to move on. All I can say is that God had to have literally gone into the computer just minutes before the releases were to be announced that night, and changed my date.
I’m still speechless even today. Thankfully, I contacted one of my friends, who graciously picked me up in the middle of the night, and I went to their house to wait until my parents made the 7 hour drive to Wisconsin. By 10:30 am, I was on my way back to St. Louis to start my life and my new adventure all over again.
Words could not explain how overjoyed I was on that Friday morning. Even today, I still shake my head in amazement at how God works. I can still vividly remember that cold, dreary, January day in 2012 when I was arrested. My life was forever changed. I was knocked off my high pedestal and placed in the lowest of low places. I was broken. I was shattered beyond repair, to the point of dust. What was once a great life was reduced to nothing but weightless powder.
That was exactly what and where I needed to be. I needed to be absolutely nothing and in the worst of worse places so that with time I could strengthen my relationship with God and He could build me up again and mold me and reshape me into the man He always wanted me to be. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 God needed to make me alive again and had to start from scratch in order to do it. He had to knock me down to bring me back up. Knocking me down and turning me into dust was the only way to get me back to my basic form so that something new could be created. But it took time. Six years to be exact. That is 2,190 days. Yes, I counted every single day.
What did you do in those 2,190 days? Some of you got married. Some of you got divorced. Some of you had kids. Some of you might have got married, had kids, divorced, remarried, and had kids again. Some of you experienced death of family and friends, cancer, and sickness. Some of you got new jobs or retired. Some of you bought a house or a new car. Some of you moved. Some of you traveled to other countries. And some of you found God.
In those 2,190 days, I didn’t have the luxuries that a lot of you had. But what I learned and experienced during this time was much more valuable than I could ever express. I learned the true meaning of patience. I learned how to listen to others. I learned how to rely on others. I learned how to give. I learned the true definition of being humble. I learned how to be a true friend. I learned how to care and show love. I learned how to serve. I truly learned how to be happy, even where I was. I learned how to pray, read the bible, and memorize scripture. I grew and strengthened my relationship with the Lord. During this time I slowed down and took advantage just where God had placed me. This was a time for me to get back on track, and be that friend, brother, son, and leader God always wanted me to be. I did not get sick (Miraculously, my colds and allergies never came upon me during these six years). And not one person in my family passed away during this time. God not only had me under his hedge of protection, but my family and friends, too. These six years in my opinion were a training ground as to what is to come in my life. I needed to learn how to be alive again. I was shattered beyond repair, and made into dust. But when dust is mixed with water, dust becomes clay. Clay, when placed in a person’s hands, can be formed into anything he or she wants it to be. The person molding the clay is also known as a potter. And that potter is Jesus. Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hands. Isaiah 64:8
Six years ago was not the end of my life. It was just the beginning; the remolding process. I was lost, but am now found. I was dust. Every Single One of Those Days I was in the hands of the Beholder. He was making me into something greater than I could ever imagine. It was a process that has taken six years so far for Him to create His masterpiece. And I still know He is not finished with me yet. He still has lots of work to do. But I truly know now that I can place my life in the hands of the Potter, for He is making something glorious out of dust. I AM FREE!!!!
This is my last post that tells my prison journey. Thanks for reading and you have my permission to share my story so others, too, can be free!