“I was the first ex-con to be allowed Chaplaincy at the same prison that locked me up for years.”
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
I am Pastor Al Peratt Sr. I am the chaplain for Volunteers of America, Dakotas and have been with the organization for more than 11 years. I traveled a long way, over my almost 70 years of life, to get here.
Early in my life, my siblings and I were sent to foster homes. My father was in the military. My mother wasn’t around. After the foster homes, we moved back with our father into a blended home, where abuse from our stepmother was a daily part of life. Later, I would also be abused by a church leader who molested me. I learned at an early age to trust no one.
I was kicked out of college for drinking on campus. I wanted to do well, but for some reason would end up testing the system through drugs and alcohol. Eventually, I joined the military where I was a legal clerk during the day and the top hashish dealer at night. Drugs and alcohol became my escape and then I was busted for heroin smuggling. I received a five-to-life sentence in Chino State Prison. After prison, I became a heroin addict for almost eight years. My wife at the time had a significant methamphetamine habit. We started one of the biggest Meth rings that ever existed in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Everything came crashing down with a narcotics bust, and I was sent to the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a ten-year sentence. My wife was pregnant with our daughter, and my son was too young to understand what was going on. It was a dark, spiritual time in our lives.
After a year in prison, I was ready for a drug treatment program and changing my life. I needed something more powerful than drugs to set my moral compass. I didn’t trust most people, but I decided to make a commitment to God that wherever he led me I would tell the truth about my life in addiction and conviction.
I completed a business degree and paralegal degree while in prison and then spent 15 years in the tech industry where I became a supervisor. Having lead bible study in the local county jail, I also became licensed to preach the gospel. I am twice ordained and had a biker church for people in addiction and just out of prison. I was the first ex-con to be allowed Chaplaincy at the same prison that locked me up for years.
In 2011 after 14-1/2 years, I received one of the nine presidential pardons given out by President Barack Obama. What a phone call that was, and what a celebration I had with my beautiful bride, Teresa. She has been with me on this crazy journey for 43 years.
In 2016, Volunteers of America named me the Leader of Ministry for its affiliates—such an honor!