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FEATURING DORTELL WILLIAMS - California imprisons nearly 200,000 people in various types of detention centers, including prisons and jails. If California was a country, it would have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. Of this number, thousands are serving sentences of “life in prison without the possibility of parole” (LWOP), meaning they will live and die behind bars. 

According to Human Rights Watch, “More than 5,000 of the nearly 56,000 men and women sentenced to LWOP in the United States are in California, the third largest number of any US jurisdiction.” Now, states such as Pennsylvania are considering overturning LWOP as unconstitutional. 

For the last 20 years Rising Up host Sonali Kolhatkar has been communicating via letters with Dortell Williams, who has been imprisoned in California under an LWOP sentence. 

Williams has filed commentaries for Prison Radio, written books and earned multiple academic degrees during a life that has mostly been behind bars. For the first time in their decades-long correspondence, thanks to newly enacted reforms in prison communication, Williams was able to speak face-to-face with Kolhatkar and appeared as a guest on YES! Presents: Rising Up With Sonali. He shared what it has been like for him to be incarcerated for decades with no prospects of freedom. 

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