Name: Tarra Simmons
Job Title: Director
Company Name: Civil Survival
Bio: In 2020, Simmons became the first formerly incarcerated person elected to the Washington State Legislature, representing the 23rd Legislative District. Her commitment to public service stems from her own experiences as a survivor of multiple forms of violence, poverty, and substance use disorder. Simmons believes that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution and should have an integral role in working toward the end of mass incarceration and healing its aftermath. It was this core belief that guided her career path in advocacy.
Bio 2: Earlier in her life, Simmons was incarcerated for reasons related to her childhood trauma and substance use disorder. After her release, she graduated from Seattle University School of Law in May 2017, magna cum laude, with the Dean’s Medal and the Graduating Student Award, but was initially denied the right to take the state bar exam because of her criminal history. Ultimately, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in her favor, and she was allowed to take the bar exam and become a member of the Washington State Bar Association – a story that made national news.
Bio 3: Simmons is an inaugural member of the Council on Criminal Justice and serves on the Board of Directors for the Economic Opportunity Institute. She is a 2018 JustLeadership USA Fellow and was recently honored with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice award, the YWCA Woman of Achievement award, and the U.S. Senator Patty Murray Golden Tennis Shoe. She frequently speaks on issues relating to access to justice, criminal justice, sentencing, and prison reform.
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