Nathaniel "Nate" Williams is the President of Choices for Freedom, Inc.
Arrested in the 1980s, he is one of the first juveniles in the state of California to be sentenced as an adult at age seventeen, when he was a troubled youth. Nate underwent radical changes which involved refocusing his priorities to help others. During his incarceration, Nate was elected by the entire inmate population to chair the Men’s Advisory Council. His responsibilities included serving as the principal representative of the prison population to the administrative and custody staff of Deuel Vocational prison in Tracy California.
Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” heard about Nate’s story while he was inside and helped bring him home. Released in November 2011, Nate began helping others and furthering his education. When attending San Francisco state for his Bachelor’s degree, the California Institute of Integral Studies asked him to invite Michelle Alexander to help with a fundraising drive for scholarships for former inmates. Nate himself was subsequently offered a scholarship, and in December 2014, graduated from CIIS with his Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Nate has met with congressional offices to share his story and to educate policymakers around sentencing of juveniles as adults, and recommending services youth must receive in order to avoid the revolving door of recidivism. He also visited the White House where he shared his views on policy reform and strategies that can lead to lower rates of recidivism.
Nate's strong leadership skills are enhanced by capacities for mentoring, time management, meeting facilitation, program coordination and mediation. His life experience and approach gives him an easy rapport with all people whom others find hard to reach.
Nate appeared as a guest speaker for a variety of professional and youth audiences, addressing issues related to youth development, restorative justice and community reentry for audiences such as the students and faculty at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, San Francisco City College, and Chaffey College. He operates a mentoring program at the Alameda County Juvenile Hall and volunteer with the “Man Up” leadership development program at Youth Uprising in East Oakland.
Since 2013, Nate has been a Volunteer with Cease Fire, working with high risk gang affiliated youth and adults, providing case management and mentoring to help them to stay out of jail and prison. He was recruited to provide direct assistance to the Cease Fire Violence Reduction Strategy in Oakland, run by the Oakland Police Department, and he currently serves as a case manager for Westside Community Services (a mental health organization) in San Francisco, where his primary focus is on mentorship, reentry and community development. He operates his own mentoring program at the Alameda County Juvenile Hall and volunteers weekly with the “Man Up” leadership development program at Youth Uprising in East Oakland. He is a graduate of the Golden State Works/Cal Trans program and returns monthly as a motivational speaker.Nate represents the state-wide Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and convenes the Alameda County chapter which has been meeting once a month to advocate for improved policies for juveniles and adults; coalition members also work directly to mentor residents in the county who are exiting prisons and jails to connect them with housing and employment services. In this capacity, he has been working with the realigned population for more than 18 months. Understanding the importance of helping men exiting prison to find housing and employment led to the formation of “Choices for Freedom,” a nonprofit with a mission to deliver effective services to the reentry population in Alameda County.
Nate is featured in, and helped develop, “Getting out & Staying Out,” a publication of the Reentry Council of the City & County of San Francisco which is used throughout northern California. He has been recruited to provide direct assistance to the Cease Fire Violence Reduction Strategy in Oakland, run by the Police Department. Nate lives in Oakland, and he currently serves as a case manager for Westside Community Services (a mental health organization) in San Francisco, where his primary focus is on youth and youth adult mentorship, reentry and community development. He was selected by OCYO in Oakland to be a For Us By Us Ceasefire Coordinator. He is especially dedicated to sharing his story, wisdom, and insights with youth who are facing challenges and choices similar to the ones Williams faced. He also offers discerning recommendations related to the development of reentry programs geared toward the particular needs of lifers – that is, individuals who were sentenced to life terms in prison with the possibility of parole.