Syrita SteibFounder and Executive Director of Operation Restoration New Orleans, LA Award Year: 2020
As Founder and Executive Director of Operation Restoration, Syrita Steib creates opportunities for formerly incarcerated women. Her goal is to eradicate the roadblocks she faced when returning to society after her own incarceration. After nearly 10 years in prison, she was released into a community vastly different than the one she had left. Despite her academic accomplishments while incarcerated, Syrita was denied admission at the University of New Orleans due to the criminal history question. She reapplied, unchecked the box, was granted admission, and went on to earn her B.S. from Louisiana State University. Syrita wrote and advocated for Louisiana Act 276, which prohibits public postsecondary institutions from asking questions on criminal history for purposes of admissions. Syrita has continued to work with advocates in five states to pass legislation to “ban the box” in college admissions. As a policy consultant for Cut50’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women campaign, she worked tirelessly for the passage of the First Step Act. She served as co-chair of the Healthy Families Committee for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transition team; was appointed to the Executive Board for Dillard University’s Center for Racial Justice; was appointed by the governor to the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Oversight Council; and is Vice Chair of the Louisiana Task Force on Women’s Incarceration. She was selected to participate in the 2019-2020 Unlocked Futures cohort and is a 2020 recipient of the Rubinger Fellowship.
Syrita used her award to support Operation Restoration’s Advocacy program, which organizes and provides training sessions to formerly incarcerated women on how to become advocates for change.
Operation Restoration hosted an event this fall with the New Orleans District Attorney, criminal court judges and members of law enforcement, providing an opportunity to amplify the voices of formerly and currently incarcerated Black women as leaders and problem solvers.
Syrita made headlines after receiving a pardon in January and was featured in an article for PBS: Meet the scientists building a prison-to-STEM pipeline.