JLUSA leader Tarra Simmons first among five formerly incarcerated elected to state legislatures since 2021

June 16, 2023

“Since [Leading with Conviction™ 2018 graduate] Rep. Tarra Simmons (D) in 2021 became the first formerly incarcerated legislator in Washington State, a string of people have been elected to state legislatures who openly discuss their own histories with the criminal justice system and advocate for fellow justice-involved citizens.

“Those lawmakers are New York Assemblymember Edward Gibbs (D), [Leading with Conviction™ 2018 graduate] Kentucky Rep. Keturah Herron (D), and Rhode Island Reps. Cherie Cruz (D) and Leonela Felix (D).

“In interviews with Pluribus News, each of the legislators described difficult upbringings, their paths out of the criminal justice system, and how their life experiences now inform their work as lawmakers.

“‘The fact we’ve gone from zero in 2020 to five now validates why I did this,’ said Simmons, 45, a former nurse who served time in prison after a drug-related conviction and has since become an attorney.

“The emerging trend happening across the country comes as voter attitudes shift amid the expansion of re-enfranchisement laws aimed at giving convicted individuals a second chance.”

Read the full story at Pluribus News.

Rep. Simmons was also profiled recently in Teen Vogue!

Teen Vogue: What does it mean to you to be the first formerly incarcerated elected official in Washington?

Tarra Simmons: The reason why I did it was to break the concrete ceiling for other formerly incarcerated people to run. It’s been very difficult and a lot of emotional labor to educate everyone about the issues. But also I think about history and how, at one time, there were no women in elected office, there were no people of color, there were no LGBTQ folks. And so, it’s [about] making history.

Read the full interview at Teen Vogue.

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