23rd District Update: Hood Canal Salmon Tour, Norwegian Prisons, and the New Hope Act

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The leaves are changing and fall is in the air! Since I last wrote, there have been some big changes to the 23rd District delegation. This May, your State Senator and my seatmate, Sen. Christine Rolfes was appointed to the vacancy on the Kitsap County Board of Commisioners and resigned her seat to focus full time on her new job. In October, the Council formally named my other seatmate, Rep. Drew Hansen to serve the remainder of Sen. Rolfes’ term. While I am sad to see Sen. Rolfes and Rep. Hansen leave the Senate and House respectively, I look forward to continuing to collaborate with them on the wellbeing of Kitsap County.

I am also excited to welcome the 23rd District’s newest State Representative, Greg Nance! I have known and worked with Greg for years. He will make an excellent representative for the 23rd. Greg’s background as a non-profit leader and youth mental health advocate will add a valued perspective to our work in Olympia. Greg is also an avid distance runner, ultramarathoner, mountaineer, and open water swimmer. In 2019 he ran 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days! I look forward to working with Greg to deliver results for the people of the 23rd District.

Hood Canal Salmon Tour

Reps Simmons and Nance on a boat

After being appointed just two weeks ago, Rep. Nance is already hard at work! Greg joined me and members of the House Appropriations Committee last week for a tour around the Hood Canal Bridge to examine its impacts on salmon runs. While Greg is not on the committee, since the tour was in the 23rd District, he came along to learn more about how we can improve the salmon population in the Hood Canal. Salmon are a vital part of our eco-system and ecological heritage and we are working diligently to ensure that they continue to be a resource for Washingtonians for generations to come.

Visit to Norwegian Prisons

Group photo from prison tour

Washington is taking a page out of Norway’s book! Last month, I joined my fellow Community Safety, Justice & Reentry Committee member, Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, and Department of Corrections staff for a tour of Norwegian prisons. The Norwegian Correctional Service has pioneered a person-centered approach to corrections that has seen major improvement both for incarcerated people and for prison staff. The Amend program is a program at the University of California San Francisco that works to bring these person-centered principles to the United States. The Washington DOC has actively partnered with Amend and is working on a seven-year plan to phase ‘dynamic security’ into Washington’s prisons and reentry centers.

Reps. Simmons and Mosbrucker with a horse

‘Dynamic security’ encourages staff to build relationships with incarcerated people, with the goal of both seeing each other as fellow humans. While it may seem simple, it runs contrary to the way many DOC staff are trained to treat incarcerated people. By treating incarcerated people with basic respect and working on building a personal relationship, security in prisons actually improves. The goal is “to take the prison out of the person as much as possible before we take the person out of the prison.” Developing a sense of normality makes the reentry process easier for incarcerated people. It also has hugely positive effects on staff wellness. Improving communication and developing relationships with incarcerated people gives correctional officers a better and less stressful work environment. I am thankful to the Washington DOC for working to bring this program into our own prisons and hopeful that it will help both incarcerated people return to society more successfully and prison staff lead healthier lives.

Group listens to Norwegian corrections officer

New Hope Act and Conviction Vacation

Rep. Simmons with guests at her conviction vacation

Last month was also a momentous month for me personally. Thanks to the New Hope Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Hansen in 2019, I was able to vacate my convictions from 2013 and my record is now free and clear! Thank you to everyone who supported me along this journey.

Living with a conviction on your record comes with so many collateral consequences, from not being able to volunteer at my kid’s schools, to renting an Air BnB, to executing my mother’s estate, to getting a job. Having the security to provide for myself and to finally fully reintegrate into society is a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

The New Hope Act was passed unanimously in 2019 and expanded the eligibility for vacating a conviction as well as shortened the timeframe to apply for a conviction vacation. Those who wish to vacate their conviction must still wait 3 years for a misdemeanor, 5 years for a class C felony, or 10 years for a class B felony without any subsequent convictions as well as satisfying all of their legal financial obligations (LFOs) and court conditions; however, the clock now starts once you are released from prison as opposed to once you have finished paying your LFOs. Since finding work is one of the largest collateral consequences to a conviction on your record, this allows people to get back on their feet quicker.

Allowing people a true second chance will reduce recidivism and allow people to become truly productive members of society again. If you have a conviction on your record, I highly encourage you to re-evaluate if you are eligible to get your conviction vacated. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Free COVID Tests

COVID test

COVID is still out there! The federal government has re-started giving out free COVID tests. Click the link below to get yours delivered and help protect your friends and family!


Thank you for reading my legislative newsletter. I will continue updating you periodically throughout the interim. Please continue to reach out to my office with your thoughts, concerns, and ideas!


Rep. Tarra Simmons