KHALIL'S STORY - THE IMPORTANCE OF FATHERHOOD
Father’s Day in an era of mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization is always emotional for me. I’m grateful to be with my wife and two daughters and seeing their faces light up when they say, “Happy Father’s Day!” I enjoy calling my family and friends and wishing them happy Father’s day as well. Overall, I cherish the fact that I have the opportunity to be free and with family. But underneath that, I can’t forget that there are millions of fathers, children, and families who will look at Father’s Day not as a joyous occasion, but as a day that callously rips open a wound regardless of its healing stage.
Currently, the U.S. is the world’s largest jailer accounting for 25% of the world’s incarcerated population and only 5% of the world’s populous. Additionally, there are 5 million morepeople on some form of community supervision. Furthermore, there are over 65 millionAmericans with a criminal record. Lastly, the U.S. has deported almost 3 million men and women over the last 10 years, impacting countless lives.
In the U.S. there are approximately 2.7 million minor children with an incarcerated parent -- millions more who have a deported parent and these numbers are not counting the immeasurable trauma that is associated with the familial experience of criminal justice involvement and/or separation due to deportation. The fact is that the current systems of justice that we hold up as reflective of our shared values of safety, family unity, and prosperity are indeed quite the opposite.
Furthermore, separating fathers from their families negatively impacts their economic strength, social mobility, emotional and psychological health, and even morale. Particularly damaging is the generational impact that separation can cause or exacerbate other forms of trauma that children or other family members may be experiencing.
I know this from my personal experience -- my time spent in immigration detention in 2014, facing almost inevitable deportation to Guyana, a country that I left when I was only four years of age, is something that my family and I still grapple with to this day. My children have an ever-present fear of me not returning when I leave their presence, or return home late from a long day of advocacy. These emotions may fade, but the trauma is always present.
I enjoy Father’s day. It helps to keep my perspective grounded in gratitude, humbleness, and persistence. It reminds me that I have what is most important in my life. It gives me the strength to continue to advocate against intently dangerous policies that have or will negatively impact families who have been marginalized and silenced. In an era of mass incarceration and deportation Father’s day is just not the same.
Khalil A. Cumberbatch currently serves as Associate Vice President of Policy at the Fortune Society, a reentry organization whose goal is to build people and not prisons. He previously served as Manager of Training at JustLeadershipUSA, a national non-profit dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by year 2030. He is also a lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work.
In December 2014, after being held for five months in immigration detention, Khalil was one of two recipients to receive an Executive Pardon from NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to prevent his deportation from the United States.