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WA: Tarra Simmons Looks To Become 1st Former Inmate Elected To Washington Legislature

[ – 10/21/19]

A Washington attorney and criminal justice reform advocate who previously served time in prison is seeking to become the first formerly incarcerated person elected to the Washington Legislature, at least in modern times.

Tarra Simmons, of Bremerton, who in 2017 won a Supreme Court fight to sit for the state bar exam, despite her prior criminal conviction, plans to formally announce her candidacy for the state House on Monday.

“I’d like to break this concrete ceiling,” Simmons said in an exclusive interview with the public radio Northwest News Network. “I think we would all fare better if we have diverse people with lived experiences running for all kinds of offices.”

Simmons will run in 2020 as a Democrat for an open House seat in the 23rd Legislative District, which includes parts of the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island. She is the first candidate to announce for the position.

The seat is currently held by state Rep. Sherry Appleton, an eight-term Democrat who recently announced she will retire at the end of her current two-year term in January 2021. Appleton recruited Simmons to run for her seat and has endorsed Simmons’ candidacy.

“I have been mentoring her all along,” Appleton said. “I think she really is a very dynamic person … and she has a lot to offer in criminal justice reform and health care. I think she’s the perfect person to run in my place.”

In recent years, Simmons has emerged as a leading advocate in Washington for what she calls a “second chance” for people who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system. She noted that nearly 1 in 3 Americans have some sort of criminal record.

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  1. Eric

    This is outstanding. When I went through the justice system I had 15 court appearances over a two year period and many meetings with my attorney, and once I was incarcerated it became very apparent that nobody in the legal system that I encountered had any idea about the prison system. The federal judge even said, “I am going to send you to Devon’s because I think that is the best place for you.” Of course that is not where I went. She didn’t even know that the BOP makes that decision, not her. No telling how many people she thought she was sending to certain places they never ended up. None of those people from the court have any contact with the defendant once they leave the court room and go through the back door in cuffs. The justice system needs people like this woman who had that experience and actually know what incarceration is about. They will then know if it is the best thing for a person or not. And we all know this is especially true for people on the registry. Clearly, very few, if anybody in politics or the justice system, understands who the people on the registry are.

  2. C

    That’s awesome on several levels. If she gets the vote the biggest difference between her and most of her elected peers is that she’ll be the only one who served time for her crimes while the others offend with impunity.

    She’d sure have my vote if I was in WA.

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