Simmons’ Judicial Discretion Act (HB 2001) to Hear Public Testimony in the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee

OLYMPIA—Turning her troubled past into success to help others has been something Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton) has been known for ever since she became a state representative in 2021. As the state’s first formerly incarcerated person elected to the Washington Legislature, she has worked tirelessly to help formerly incarcerated people re-integrate into society.  

Simmons’ work continues with her sponsorship of House Bill 2001, which was pre-filed before the start of this year’s legislative session on Jan. 8. Her bill would provide judicial discretion to modify sentences in the interests of justice. Long-term incarceration disproportionately impacts poor communities and communities of color, and lengthy sentences can also be a hindrance in reducing recidivism, as well as being costly to the state.  

“I got to know a man who has been in a prison near Olympia for more than a decade,” Simmons said. “His story fascinated me, because he’s spent the past several years changing his life for the better wants to help other incarcerated people do the same. He even began initial work on drafting this bill in its early stages, with a call-to-action for judges to review long or life prison sentences for those who’ve worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and to shorten their sentences.”  

Currently, only prosecutors can bring forward these motions for rehabilitated prisoners to make their case for an earlier release, even if they were given a sentence under laws that are no longer on the books. HB 2001 would change that by allowing defense counsel to also get the case before a judge to determine whether the sentence still serves the interests of justice under certain circumstances. 

Public testimony is being heard on HB 2001 at 4 p.m. on Jan. 23 and can be viewed here on TVW.