Civil Survival Executive Director, Tarra Simmons, was recently honored with the Washington Appleseed Bradley C. Diggs Outstanding Service Award. Washington Appleseed is a volunteer-based law and policy organization that works to disrupt cycles of poverty and social inequality in Washington. This year, Appleseed released the Washington Reentry Guide which helps formerly incarcerated individuals navigate the systems and challenges facing them as they reintegrate with their communities. Tarra was chosen for special recognition because of her tireless commitment to helping justice-involved individuals overcome legal barriers to housing and employment and obtain relief from legal financial obligations.
Tarra’s own story began with a difficult childhood followed by incarceration on drug-related charges. After her recovery and release in 2013 she graduated magna cum laude from Seattle University Law School and received a prestigious Skadden Fellowship. While in law school, Tarra interned with several public interest organizations including the Northwest Justice Project, Disability Rights Washington, the ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services and the Public Defender Association. Her remarkable success story was interrupted by the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board, who denied her application to sit for the bar exam. She fought the decision to the Washington Supreme Court where she received a rare same-day unanimous decision in her favor. She was admitted to practice law in June 2018.
In addition to her work with Civil Survival, Tarra currently works with a variety of allied organizations and task forces on policy reform issues. Governor Inslee appointed her to the Washington Statewide Reentry Council where she serves as co-chair along with the King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Governor Inslee also appointed Tarra to the Public Defense Advisory Committee.
In her speech accepting the award Tarra thanked her many supporters, including all of the pro bono lawyers, the broader legal community and the many advocates who contribute to the criminal justice reform movement. We congratulate Tarra and support her outstanding commitment to our movement.