Tarra Simmons is the Director of the Civil Survival Project. In 2020, Tarra was also elected to the Washington State Legislature. She represents the 23rd Legislative District and is excited about the opportunity to make a more significant impact while serving the community in this role.
Her commitment to this work stems from her own experiences as a survivor of multiple forms of violence, poverty and substance use disorder. She believes those closest to the problem are closest to the solution and should have an integral role in leading the end of mass incarceration and healing its aftermath. It was this core belief that guided her career path in advocacy.
Prior to law school, Ms. Simmons was incarcerated for reasons related to her childhood trauma and substance use disorder. 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 bar exam because of her 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.
Today, Ms. Simmons sits on numerous boards and commissions. Governor Inslee has appointed Ms. Simmons to both the Statewide Reentry Council and the Public Defense Advisory Board. Additionally, she currently serves on the Washington State Criminal Sentencing Task Force, the Legal Services Corporation Emerging Leaders Council, and the Board of Directors for the Economic Opportunity Institute.
She is a 2018 JustLeadership USA Fellow and was recently honored with the WACDL Champion of Justice, the YWCA Woman of Achievement award, and the US Senator Patty Murray Golden Tennis Shoe. She frequently speaks on issues relating to access to justice, criminal justice, sentencing, and prison reform.