Marleina Ubel SSW’21 was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the mainland when she was about five years old. She spent most of her formative years in Miami, Florida with her mother, stepfather, and four siblings. Her stepfather, who raised her as his own, was Cuban, and so her childhood was one that blended Puerto Rican and Cuban traditions. Things were not always easy, and Marleina did not start her college education until she had a daughter of her own. She started her educational journey at Valencia College in Orlando, earning a transfer scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received a BA in philosophy. Later, she would move to the great state of New Jersey and earn her MSW at Rutgers School of Social Work.

Today, Marleina works as a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) through the State Policy Fellowship at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). While she makes contributions to work on tax and budget, her main area of focus is the criminal legal system. The nature of this work is ever evolving and often fast paced. What follows is an example of an average day for Marleina.

7:00 AM: I get out of bed to make a cup of Bustelo before I have to wake my 10-year-old for school. I savor the 30 minutes of silence before the morning routine truly starts.

8:10 AM: I rush my daughter out the door after she has had her breakfast and put up a fight about brushing her hair. I sit down to check my calendar and inbox, which is generally in need of some attention. I respond to emails from partners at the American Civil Liberties Union, Salvation and Social Justice, and Make the Road New Jersey.

9:00 AM: Time for our weekly staff meeting. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been meeting and working remotely, with a few exceptions. The NJPP staff Zoom in to the meeting and give relevant updates. Given that I am part of the research team, I tell my colleagues about a series of bills I am watching that are related to my area of expertise. On this day, they are S2656, a bill that requires access to law enforcement disciplinary records as government records, and S2963, a bill that will authorize local civilian review boards to review police operations and conduct.

10:30 AM: I am working on a blog that will lift up a recent report published by our friends at CBPP. The report highlights how states can use American Rescue Plan dollars to fund alternative models to policing. I use this opportunity to also lift up my recent report on police spending and alternative models in New Jersey.

12:00 PM: I make some lunch and eat with my husband, who is a graduate student. While these times are challenging, small things like being able to have extra time together give us something to be thankful for.

1:30 PM: I have a meeting with leaders in the New Jersey legislative staff offices to discuss the current status of bills that are of interest to my partners and me. We also hope to glean some insights that may help us move the legislation forward.

2:30 PM: I attend a webinar on lobbying. Attending webinars is a common way to engage in professional development, and because NJPP is a nonprofit organization, it is important to know what the guidelines are around lobbying as a representative of NJPP. 

3:30 PM: There is an Abolish the Drug War (ATDW) coalition meeting. I represent NJPP in various coalitions, which consist of partner organizations, professionals, impacted individuals, and advocates across the state. ATDW meets every two weeks to brainstorm ways to create a more equitable state by ending the drug war and finding ways to remediate all the harms it has caused.

6:30 PM: I am pretty tired! I make dinner and help my daughter with her homework. I also catch up on any emails — it never ends!

9:30 PM: My husband and I read stories with our daughter as we tuck her in. After this, we get to spend about an hour of time together before I fall asleep.