Are you ready to “Break the Chains?” Newly appointed Executive Director for Civil Survival Tarra Simmons challenged all JI’s and allies to do just that as she spoke before an enthusiastic crowd at the Seattle Federal Executive Board (SFEB). Established in 1967, the SFEB is comprised of 147 Federal agencies, including representatives from the U.S. Courts, Immigration Services, and the Peace Corps.

With several hundred people in attendance, Tarra shared her personal story of incarceration, her challenges of reentry, and the need for more support from our communities. While she has received several honors of late, Tarra explained that she does not consider herself unique: “Know that I am not an exceptional person, I have simply been given exceptional opportunities. Our prisons, jails, and communities are filled with exceptional people, brilliant and motivated individuals who happen to have a criminal record.”

Using her personal story and recognition as a platform, Tarra made it clear that even the most successful individuals have a difficult time with reentry: “Know that even as remarkable as some people view my accomplishments, I am still facing the stigma of my past, challenged through the journey of reentry, confronted daily with the seemingly insurmountable barrier of collateral consequences of having a conviction.”

Tarra asked those in attendance to support efforts in reforming the criminal justice system and to help eliminate barriers to reentry. Inviting people to consider how they can support the cause, challenging all with her parting words: “Let’s break some chains!”