Tarra Simmons is an Attorney and Skadden Fellow at the Public Defender Association where her project seeks to eliminate barriers to reentry through direct representation and policy advocacy. She is also the founding Executive Director of Civil Survival, an advocacy organization led by formerly incarcerated individuals committed to ending mass incarceration. Prior to law school, Ms. Simmons was incarcerated related to her own struggles with childhood trauma and substance use. During law school, she interned with five public interest organizations working to advance the rights of people currently or formerly incarcerated. She graduated 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 bar exam because of her own criminal history. It was national news when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in her favor, allowing her to take the bar exam and become a member of the Washington State Bar Association.
Ms. Simmons has been appointed by Governor Inslee to both the Statewide Reentry Council and the Public Defense Advisory Board. She currently serves on the Legal Services Corporation Opioid Task Force and on the Board of Directors for the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. She is a 2018 JustLeadershipUSA Fellow, and was recently named the 2018 WACDL Champion of Justice. She speaks frequently on issues relating to access to justice, criminal justice reform, and reentry. Ms. Simmons lives in Bremerton with her husband and children.
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