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Washington State History Museum forum focuses on life after incarceration

An abandoned cell at the former McNeil Island Prison. The Washington History Museum is hosting a forum this weekend about life after incarceration. It's organized in conjunction with the museum's exhibit about McNeil Island's now-abandoned prison.
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX
An abandoned cell at the former McNeil Island Prison. The Washington History Museum is hosting a forum this weekend about life after incarceration. It's organized in conjunction with the museum's exhibit about McNeil Island's now-abandoned prison.

Former prisoners will gather in Tacoma tomorrow to talk about life after incarceration at a forum hosted by the Washington State History Museum.

Tarra Simmons, executive director of the nonprofit Civil Survival, is among the speakers for the event.

Simmons is now an attorney. But she battled addiction and spent two and a half years in prison before turning her life around and going to law school. She successfully challenged the Washington State Bar, which didn’t initially allow her to take the bar exam because of her record.

 

The museum symposium, which begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, is organized in conjunction with the McNeil Island exhibit at the Washington State History Museum, "Unlocking McNeil's Past." This weekend's event, titled "Unlocking the Future: Life after Incarceration," is free for museum members or included with admission.

 

Mary Mikel Stump, audience engagement director for the museum, says the panel discussion is something of a departure for the Washington State History Museum.”It’s not the normal kind of symposium that you would see necessarily see at a history museum," Stump said, "but we are seeking to be not just a history museum and somebody who gathers, collects and preserves histories, but to really be a community anchor and I think that these kinds of programs really help us to do that."

 

The symposium is included in the price of admission to the museum on Saturday. Admission is free for museum members. In partnerhsip with the Washington State History Museum, KNKX produced a six-part podcast series about McNeil Island called Forgotten Prison.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.