NCCJD® Staff


Leigh Ann Davis

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

Pronouns: she, her, hers

Leigh Ann Davis is Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives at The Arc of the United States and directs The Arc's National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®). With over 20 years of experience working at the intersection of intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) and criminal justice, Ms. Davis strives to build stronger lines of open communication, understanding and respect between these two worlds. She authored The Arc’s first training curriculum for law enforcement on I/DD, The Arc’s first publication on sexual assault of people with I/DD, and presents nationally and internationally on a broad array of criminal justice and disability topics that involve both victim and defendant issues. In 2013, she worked with The Arc to secure funding and fulfill a long-term dream to create NCCJD®, the first national center in the U.S. to address both victim/witness and defendant issues involving people with I/DD, and oversaw the development of NCCJD’s signature training funded by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance: Pathways to Justice®. As The Arc’s subject matter expert related to criminal justice and disability issues, she is interviewed by national media outlets and provides consultation to federal and non-profit agencies, including The Office for Victims of Crime, Vera Institute of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). She provides peer review for scholarly journals and has co-edited, authored and co-authored publications for The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), The University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration and The Journal of Psychiatry & Law. As a child sexual abuse survivor and proud sibling of a law enforcement officer, she intuitively understands the complexity of this issue and works to find common-sense solutions that prioritize the voices and leadership of people with I/DD in the movement toward equal access to justice. Ms. Davis works from a home office in Arlington, Texas and holds a B.S.W (Bachelors of Science in Social Work), M.S.S.W. (Masters of Science in Social Work), and M.P.A. (Masters of Public Administration) from the University of Texas at Arlington.

 Ariel Simms

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

Pronouns: she, her, hers

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. 


Reginald Thomas, Criminal Justice & Disability Fellow

Pronouns: he, him, his

Reginald is the Criminal Justice & Disability Fellow with The Arc's National Center on Criminal Justice & Disability (NCCJD). Prior to joining The Arc, Reginald worked for the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in Jacksonville, Florida. During his time there, Reginald assisted attorneys who represented individuals accused of criminal and civil crimes, including many with mental disabilities. Additionally, Reginald worked for a private law firm that specialized in criminal defense. Working with the Regional Conflict Office sparked an interest in advocacy for marginalized populations. Over the course of his fellowship, Reginald aspires to utilize his experience to advance the goals of the NCCJD program, improving access to justice for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He completed his Master of Science in Criminal Justice at the University of North Florida and has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida.

 Ariel Simms

Taylor Woodard, Program Associate

Pronouns: she, her, hers

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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