Legal Aid Society

A Day In The Life

Restoring Clients’ Humanity in the Parole Revocation Defense Unit

Marissa Kubicki regularly witnessed the horrors of Rikers Island as a social worker. She was a prison abolitionist trying to fight an oppressive system from inside the City’s jails while supporting some of the most vulnerable people in New York City. It wasn’t easy, but Marissa was determined to leverage her proximity to the Department of Correction staff to advocate for people at Rikers.

Then, the guards stopped bringing her clients to their appointments.

Marissa recalls that when the Transgender Housing Unit opened at the Rosie Singer Center, Rikers’ female facility, she became increasingly outspoken about the deplorable nature in which trans people were being treated by the Department of Correction (DOC) staff. She would witness guards treating them as subhuman and fought hard for their safety.

The guards made this personal, and it was her clients who suffered. “They would purposely keep clients from counseling appointments and say they refused to go. But when I would eventually meet them later on, they wouldn’t even know they had a meeting.”

After leaving Rikers, she began working at Legal Aid as a social worker in the Bronx, and recently started with the Parole Revocation Defense Unit.

Since joining The Legal Aid Society as a forensic social worker, she feels she can perform the work she dreamed of when she finished school. As a proud Bronx-based, lesbian Puerto Rican, she has always aspired to give back to the community that raised her.

I wonder if the judges and District Attorneys would be so judgmental if they had the same upbringing as our clients. Our clients are discarded from their communities, and they work to overcome the stories that have already been written for them. Would they be able to fight for survival the way our clients often have to?

She helped her first LAS client get permission to move to Florida, to be closer to his mother and seek proper treatment, a service he was not getting in the Bronx. Initially, the court pushed back because “they couldn’t keep eyes on him” if he was out of state. She and the attorney on the case fought successfully for his move, and he still calls Marissa years later to let him know that he’s sticking to his counseling and treatment. She finds joy in her work knowing that she is restoring the humanity in her clients that is often taken away by carceral institutions.

Marissa is equally passionate about policy reform as she is about individualized care for her clients.

“I’ve seen over time how policy efforts impact the work so greatly. Under the current (Adams’) Administration it feels like it’s the only answer to any human crisis is not humanity, but punishment, like arresting people who are unhoused or facing a mental health crisis. The constant pushback on bail reform and the ways legislation gets twisted to further incarcerate our people is really crazy to see in 2023.”

“I thought when I graduated school 10 years ago that when I progressed in my career I would have less to fight, but I find myself fighting more for my community.”

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