In the News

The Seattle Times | 04/21/2021 | “From incarceration to the Washington Legislature, Rep. Tarra Simmons hits her stride in first term in Olympia”

“But Simmons — a Bremerton Democrat, lawyer, civil rights activist and freshman state representative — has been a leading figure in the national fight for criminal justice reform for years, breaking barriers in politics and law for people with felonies.” Read the Full Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 04/16/2021 | “Kitsap Mental Health Services expands facility in Bremerton for youth programs”

“Those who showed up included KMHS staff members and leadership, as well as state legislators, Sen. Christine Rolfes and State Rep. Tarra Simmons of the 23rd Legislative District, who help secure a $321,000 state budget to fund the construction. The project was Simmons’s first capital budget request after she joined the Legislature in January 2021, she said.” Read the Full Article Here

ABC News | 04/09/2021 | “Some states work to expand voting rights for people with felony convictions”

Simmons, one of the bill’s sponsors, knows the impact of disenfranchisement first hand. After being “born into generations of addiction and incarceration and poverty and violence,” Simmons was sentenced to prison in 2011 for selling a small amount of prescription drugs to financially fuel her own drug addiction, which she said resulted from trying to suppress the post-traumatic stress of her childhood.” Read the Full Article Here

The Appeal | 4/08/2021 | “She lost her right to vote over a felony. Now this lawmaker has helped enfranchise thousands”

“Tarra Simmons became the first formerly incarcerated lawmaker in Washington State’s recent history after she won a seat in the state House in November. Five months later, she is celebrating her first win as a legislator: A bill she sponsored was signed into law yesterday by Governor Jay Inslee, who credited her advocacy. It enables all formerly incarcerated Washingtonians to vote.” Read the Full Article Here

Business Insider | 11/28/2020 | “Interview: Tarra Simmons, the first felon elected to Washington’s state legislature, wants to give formerly incarcerated people a chance”

She led her campaign with her personal story and won both her primary and general election, earning endorsements from Rep. Pramila Jayapal and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.” Read the Full Article Here

The Appeal | 11/04/2020 | “Tarra Simmons becomes first person formerly convicted of a felony elected to Washington State legislature

“If we create thriving and healthy communities, where people have their needs met and where if they have an issue they have someone to talk to about it and have support, I think we can really reduce crime and our reliance on prisons,’ Simmons told The Appeal in October.” Read the Full Article Here

The Washington Post | 11/02/2020 | “She is a former addict and prisoner. This week she was elected to the Washington State House”

“Simmons said she decided to run for public office as a “second chance” candidate focused on prison reform in the hope of helping those with prison records find housing and jobs and start anew with their loved ones.” Read the Full Article Here.

The Kitsap Sun | 9/18/2020 | “Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg weighs in on Kitsap legislative race”

“One of the things that really attracted me to this campaign is the understanding of the personal stakes of political choices,” he said. “Life experience is going to affect their take on policy. If you’re going to be making healthcare policy it helps to have the experience of a doctor, or a patient, or somebody struggling with an insurance company, let’s say.”  Read the Full Article Here

The Seattle Times | 9/17/2020 | Washington’s prisons may have hit pivotal moment as they eye deep cut in their population

“I think this is a transformational moment in our overall movement,” said Tarra Simmons, a lawyer and director of the Civil Survival Project, which advocates for previously incarcerated people. Read the Full Article Here

The Kitsap Sun | 8/4/2020 | “Simmons will advance from 23rd District primary, will face Ferguson”

“Simmons drew 45% of ballots cast to Ferguson’s 34%. Daugs drew about 16% of the votes in the contest. Lou Krukar, a Democrat from Kingston, garnered around 3% of the vote.” Read the Full Article Here

The Seattle Times | 8/4/2020 | “Washington state primary election: How the day unfolded, plus results of key races”

Tarra Simmons, an attorney and civil rights activist, was leading in the primary race for Kitsap County’s 23rd Legislative District in Tuesday’s ballot returns.

If elected in the November general election, Simmons, a Democrat, would be the first Washington state lawmaker who was previously incarcerated. Simmons served 20 months in prison for drug and theft convictions and was released in 2013.

Simmons had 45% of the vote, followed by Republican April Ferguson, who had 34%. Democrat Leslie Daugs was in third with 16% of the vote. The winner in November will replace Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo. Read the Full Article Here

The Kitsap Sun | 7/28/2020 | “Simmons will be an advocate in Olympia”

By Jeromy SullivanChairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe:

“Recent events have taught us that thoughtful, knowledgeable leaders are essential to how we survive and thrive in good times and bad. We believe Tarra Simmons will be a passionate advocate for all and is the best choice to guide our community into the future.” Read the Full Article Here

The Kitsap Sun | 7/24/2020 | “Simmons has the Character to Lead”

By Kol Medina, Bainbridge Island City Councilperson:

“[Tarra] is the very definition of a servant leader. A servant leader is a person who leads by finding out what others in her community want and then providing the inspiration, vision, hard work, and relationship-building needed to help people accomplish what they want. All of our representatives should be servant leaders. For a servant leader, it is not about her, it is about “us.” I’m certain that Tarra’s mind is always thinking about what is best for those around her, not what is best for her.” Read the Full Article Fere

The Kitsap Sun | 7/7/2020 | “Simmons is an inspiring choice for voters”

“I am supporting Tarra Simmons for our state representative in Washington’s 23rd Legislative District. Tarra’s story is inspiring. She faced challenges post-incarceration. She overcame them by going to law school, then appealed to the State Supreme court for her right to take the bar exam as a former felon – and won. This is what second chances should look like. Fighting against difficult odds is indeed a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” success story. ” Read the Article Here

Mother Jones & The Marshall Project | 6/23/2020 | “For Tarra Simmons, Her Time In Prison Isn’t a Liability. It’s a Campaign-Trail Identity”

“Simmons is one of a new crop of political candidates in 2020 for whom being formerly incarcerated isn’t a disqualifier or a political liability. It’s an identity—one they say is vital to represent in state capitals and the hallways of Congress, as lawmakers try to overhaul a system that spends billions to lock up mostly Black and brown people. ” Read the Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 6/19/2020 | “Simmons understands the power of a second chance”

Written by Bainbridge Island resident Mark Hoffman, this letter to the editor describes how Tarra overcame the challenges of her past, dedicating her career to helping other people climb out of similar situations.

“She doesn’t just talk about extreme challenges – she overcomes them. After graduating from law school with honors, she fought the Washington Bar Association all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that she has impeccable moral character and could sit for the bar exam. She then served on two state boards that advocate for criminal justice reform. Her leadership helped pass the New Hope Act, a bipartisan bill that streamlines how people reintegrate into society after incarceration in this state.” Read the Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 6/15/2020 | “Simmons is a candidate who stands against injustice”

Written by Andre Henderson, this Letter to the Editor provides a passionate account of why Tarra is the main candidate standing up for justice.

“Of everyone running to represent us, Tarra Simmons has consistently proven her determination to stand with people whose voices are often forgotten. As a mother of two young black men, Tarra has been fighting systemic racism for decades in our community. As a person who overcame generational poverty, she will stand up for the low-income and working families of our community as we build an economy that works for everyone. As a Registered Nurse, she understands our healthcare system and the need to reform it. As a civil rights attorney and nonprofit leader, she dedicated her career to standing against injustice, never backing down in the face of adversity, but bringing stakeholders together to pass bipartisan legislation in Olympia supporting our community.” Read the Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 5/27/2020

Written by Becky Tatman, this letter to the editor urges the media and critics to look at Tarra’s past in the context of the incredible achievements she has made throughout her life.

“[Tarra] is a civil rights attorney. She is the co-founder of a non-profit organization, called Civil Survival, and has spent the last several years fighting at the state capitol for the rights of all people, not just for the justice-involved community. She helped pass important criminal justice legislation alongside Drew Hansen. She is an effective leader and she already knows how to get things done in Olympia. In addition, she has built relationships with elected officials on both sides of the aisle. This will allow her to make change on the issues that matter most to her constituents on Day 1.” Read the Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 4/22/2020 | “Simmons’ experience makes her a great candidate”

“Tarra has forged friendships in Olympia on both sides of the aisle while advocating for non-discriminatory legislation. She formed Civil Survival. She worked with Rep. Drew Hansen and others to get the New Hope Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform proposal, passed in 2019. Retiring Rep. Sherry Appleton has mentored her. Many, many well-known and respected people and organizations are endorsing her. Tarra will hit the ground running in Olympia.” Read the Article Here

The Stranger | 5/19/2020 | “Washington Races to Watch in 2020”

Written by Rich Smith, this article lists Tarra’s campaign as one of Washington’s top races to watch.

“Several Democrats and a couple Republicans are looking to fill Rep. Sherry Appleton’s seat in Kitsap County’s 23rd LD. Tarra Simmons, lawyer and director at the Civil Survival Project, has been campaigning hard for that seat since last October. If elected, she’d be the first former inmate to serve in the Washington legislature, according to OPB.” Read the Article Here

Bainbridge Review | 5/17/2020 | I’m joining the circle supporting Simmons

Written by Rasham Nassar, Deputy Mayor of Bainbridge Island, this letter to the editor details why Nassar supports Tarra’s bid for state legeslator.

“As a lawyer, civil rights activist, and national-level political advocate, she has acquired the professional qualifications necessary to fulfill the requirements and expectations of this position. Her remarkable achievements are uniquely complimented by a diversity of personal experience, instilling in Tarra rare leadership qualities that are universally admired and that are often absent from the political candidate pool: compassionate wisdom, empathy for our most vulnerable populations, and a deep understanding of the root of today’s problems. Her honest and hopeful insight into our community’s needs makes her an authentic, accountable, and reliable choice to represent our district.”  Read the Article Here 

Kitsap Sun | 5/6/2020 | “Simmons Speaks for Second Chances”

Written by Bremerton resident Darold Bivens, this letter to the editor describes how Tarra consistantly stands up for marginalized and stigmatized communities.

“I ask that you pay close attention to Tarra Simmons, a candidate for 23rd District State Representative. Through her professional and social endeavors, Tarra’s proven she’s capable of creating opportunities for disenfranchised groups to become productive leaders of our community.” Read the Article Here

Kitsap Sun | 4/28/2020 | “Simmons Has Committed to Helping This Community”

Written by Bainbridge resident Mary Clare Kersten, this letter to the editor calls attention to Tarra’s experience with policy that focuses on reducing inequality in the 23rd LD.

“Public policies that support public education enabled Tarra Simmons to pull herself out of poverty. Recently, she applied her activism and leadership skills to pass The New Hope Act, a piece of public policy that will help formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society. (If you don’t know… when a person leaves prison, they are denied employment and housing, thereby depriving them of the chance to redeem themselves.)” Read the Article Here

The Stranger | 2/17/2020 | “To the State Legislature: Fulfill the Promise You Made, Pass the Clean Slate Act Today”

Read the Article Here

King5 | 1/20/2020 | “Hundreds rally in Olympia to end mass incarceration”

Read the Article Here

KNKX | 1/13/2020 | “Formerly incarcerated advocates change their ‘label,’ get involved in Olympia and beyond”

Read the Article Here

KNKX | 10/21/2019 | “Former inmate-turned-attorney to run for open statehouse seat”

Read the Article Here

OPB | 10/21/2019 | “Tarra Simmons Looks To Become 1st Former Inmate Elected To Washington Legislature”

Read the Article Here

Yale Law Journal | 2/25/2019 | “Transcending the Stigma of a Criminal Record: A Proposal to Reform State Bar Character and Fitness Evaluations”

Read the Article Here

NW News Network | 7/17/2018 | “Vindicated By Supreme Court, Lawyer With Criminal Past Now Finds She’s Campaign Fodder”

Read the Article Here

Seattle Times | 6/10/2018 | “‘Character is not static’: a soon-to-be lawyer turns rough past into bright future”

Read the Article Here

Seattle Times | 6/10/2018 | “Seattle law-school grad’s bright future outshines her rough past, state high court says”

Read the Article Here 

New York Times | 1/19/2018 | “Are Felons Fit to Be Lawyers? Increasingly, the Answer Is Yes”

Read the Article Here 

The Atlantic | 11/16/2017 | “Why It’s Difficult for Former Inmates to Become Lawyers”

Read the Article Here

KNKX | 5/11/2017 | “From Drugs To Prison To Law School, Woman Faces One Extra Hurdle To Become A Lawyer”

“When Simmons graduates from law school on Saturday she will be awarded the Dean’s Medal for the graduating student “who has the greatest potential to achieve the legal profession’s most noble aspirations for justice and ethics.” But despite all the accolades, all the honors, and all the successes Simmons has achieved, she’s just been dealt a major setback: Simmons may not get to join the legal profession—at least not right away.” Read the Article Here

Seattle University | 12/02/2016 | “Student Tarra Simmons wins prestigious Skadden Fellowship”

“Student Tarra Simmons has received a prestigious Skadden Fellowship. She is the first law student from Seattle University to join this elite group of dedicated social justice professionals working on behalf of people who are poor, elderly, disabled, or otherwise deprived of human or civil rights.” Read the Article Here

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