Khalil Cumberbatch, The Fortune Society
by Benjamin Fang
Oct 24, 2017 | 16825 views | 0 0 comments | 1345 1345 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After spending more than six years in the New York state prison system, Khalil Cumberbatch worked his way up to associate vice president of policy at The Fortune Society.

The Long Island City-based organization serves 70,000 formerly incarcerated people to help them transition back into their communities.

But Cumberbatch doesn’t see his story as exceptional. He believes it should be the norm.

“I’m actually not exceptional, not someone who is the smartest, brightest or sharpest,” he said. “I’ve been given access to exceptional opportunities. Those opportunities are the same ones that anyone should be given access to, regardless of how much time they served or whatever conviction they may have been guilty of.”

One of Cumberbatch’s long-term goals is to shed the stigma and shame associated with a record of involvement with the criminal justice system.

Though he doesn’t think there’s a prescribed timeline for that to happen, having conversations where people openly admit they used to be in prison is a helpful step.

“Here I am sitting with a suit and a tie with this big fancy title. Most people would not associate me with incarceration as a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “So continuing to disclose it in a way that doesn’t exceptionalize you, but says that I’ve been exposed to exceptional opportunities, is important.”

Cumberbatch said he would love to one day see a formerly incarcerated person run for office and not have that “be such a blemish against them.” Though he said society hasn’t yet reached that point, it has been done before with other formerly taboo or frowned-upon identities.

“That’s just a part of my story that adds to my experience and analysis on why you should elect me,” he said, referring what a future political candidate might say. “That’s the point we need to reach when we talk about people with criminal justice involvement.”
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