By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – At Minneapolis Patrick Henry, Prentiss Perkins put up numbers in the 1980s, and gang members watching would offer him money to do it.

“That there caught my interest,” said Perkins. “Cross half-court and we’ll give you $50, ’cause they had the money.”

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After junior college, the basketball player got a scholarship to the University of Washington, was Newcomer of the Year in the Pac-10, and had a possible future.

“If I’d have gotten my foot in the MBA, I’d have been all-star,” he said. “I’d have been all-star a lot, I’d have been part of major offenses, I’d have been a scorer.”

In Seattle, he would leave campus and find a place where he was comfortable.

“Once I got to Washington, I wanted to get to the hood, just get to the hood and see what was going on,” he said. It led to bad decisions: selling drugs. He spent 18 of the next 21 years in and out of prisons. “I’ve seen a few places,” he said with a chuckle.

Now, living in St. Cloud, he hasn’t been working because he’s been labeled “disabled.” Disabled because a woman stabbed him in the knee. He blew the other one while incarcerated at Fort Dodge, in Iowa.

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He believes his time in prison was inevitable. “If you’re an ignorant person and you think the world revolves around you, you need to have a seat then and figure it out. Once you get in there, you realize the feeling of being nothing will change all of that and it’ll humble you to the point that, if someone offers you a bottle of water, that’s a lot to you,” he said.

Perkins grew up in north Minneapolis, and has strong feelings about the riots following George Floyd’s death. He believes the destruction hurt the workings of the inner city.

“I hate to say it, it’s just hard for my people to come together,” he said. “Even when it’s time, we just have a problem liking each other. When that went down, for a hot second we came together, but it was like the only time we can keep this going is in a destructive manner.”

With the upcoming trial, however, he doesn’t believe it’ll happen again. “I don’t think it’ll just happen again,” he said. “That’s just my opinion and I don’t think we need to tear nothing up.”

Nowadays, Perkins likes to keep life simple. The 48-year-old is the father of six children, and has six grandchildren.  He designed a model hotdog stand that he’d like to bring to the park in the summer.

He was the kid who had a chance and gave it up. But he knows he’ll never return to life behind bars.

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“It wasn’t easy for me. If they take your freedom it ain’t easy. It’s not even an option,” he said.

Mike Max