NCCJD® Staff


Leigh Ann Davis

Leigh Ann Davis, M.S.S.W., M.P.A.
Director, Criminal Justice Initiatives

With almost 20 years of experience in the I/DD (intellectual and/or developmental disability) and criminal justice field, Ms. Davis has worked with both disability and criminal justice professionals and agencies, as well as self-advocates, to build stronger lines of open communication and understanding between these two worlds. She has authored numerous publications, including curricula, scholarly articles, fact sheets and brochures on a broad array of topics (including victims, offenders/suspects, death penalty, victims with FASD) and presented at state, national and international conferences to enlighten others about the unique issues faced by people with I/DD in the criminal justice system. Ms. Davis serves as The Arc’s subject matter expert related to criminal justice issues and as consultant for other agencies, such as The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Training and Technical Assistance Center and Vera Institute of Justice. As a childhood survivor of sexual abuse, she intuitively understands the challenges victims face and their need for timely and effective support, and brings this passion to the goal of ensuring people with I/DD have access to accommodations in the criminal justice system, whether suspect, offender or victim.

 Ariel Simms

Ariel Simms, J.D., Program Manager & Attorney, Criminal Justice Initiatives

Ariel Simms completed her Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School and has Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and French from Saginaw Valley State University. In addition to her role at The Arc, Ariel teaches Disability Law and Ethics as an Adjunct Professor at American University. Prior to law school, Ariel spent two years working as a Mental Health Counselor on an inpatient psychiatric unit of a hospital. After that experience, Ariel decided to become a disability and human rights advocate, especially on behalf of those living with mental disabilities. Ariel has worked on disability rights issues both in the United States and abroad, including health care policy, human rights, and criminal justice. Ariel has a passion for social justice reform, especially in the realms of legal capacity, supported decision-making, reducing mass incarceration, improving conditions of confinement, and policing reform. Ariel hopes to see the United States ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during her career. In her spare time, Ariel enjoys indoor and outdoor cycling. 

 Ariel Simms

Taylor Woodard, Program Associate

Informed by her own experiences with a disability and driven by a passion to advocate for people with I/DD, Taylor Woodard left a lucrative position on Wall Street in 2010.  Returning to her home state of Texas, she pursued dual-master’s degrees from The University of Texas-Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and UT’s School of Social Work.  After graduating with honors in both of her fields, Ms. Woodard accepted a year-long position at The Arc of the U.S as a Paul Marchand Intern.  In this role, she analyzed and advocated for policies that strengthens the rights of people with I/DD, including the ABLE Act and the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

At the beginning of 2016, Ms. Woodard was hired by The Arc of the U.S. to Program Associate, where she will continue her efforts on the ABLE Act, promote financial literacy among the disability community, as well as contribute to the communication arm of The Arc.

Ms. Woodard looks forward to employing her skills and knowledge in tearing down barriers facing people with I/DD.



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