Tarra Simmons struggled with intergenerational poverty and incarceration, childhood trauma, and substance use disorder which led to criminal justice system involvement. Despite the obstacles, she worked for many years as a Registered Nurse. After serving her prison sentence, Tarra decided to attend law school to reduce recidivism by helping others overcome barriers to reentry. She interned with various public interest legal organizations, became involved in legislative advocacy, and co-founded Civil Survival, a grassroots advocacy organization led and staffed by currently and formerly justice-involved individuals. She graduated from Seattle University Law School, magna cum laude, in 2017, and is the first directly impacted person to receive the prestigious Skadden Fellowship.
Today, Tarra works as a Skadden Fellow for the Public Defender Association in Seattle where she represents individuals on the collateral consequences of a conviction, expands diversion programs, and advocates for local and state level justice system reform. She is also the Executive Director of Civil Survival, and was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Public Defense Advisory Board and the Statewide Reentry Council, where she serves as co-chair.