Our Initiatives

Syrita Steib

“No institution or system was designed for women and girls. I have an obligation to dismantle systems that were never built for us. The reason I do what I do is for those I left behind.”

Syrita Steib has an unrelenting passion to help formerly incarcerated women succeed. She is the executive director of Operation Restoration (OR), which she founded in 2016 to tear down the roadblocks she faced when returning to society after 10 years in prison. OR offers 15 programs, which include access to college courses for women in prison, a women-first clinic, a clothing supply closet, case management services, advocacy programs and more.

Steib’s experience was like that of many people returning from prison. She was denied admission at the University of New Orleans, despite strong academic accomplishments, due largely to her criminal record. Two years later she reapplied, unchecked the box asking about criminal history, and was granted admission. She went on to earn her B.S. from Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and is a nationally certified and licensed clinical laboratory scientist. 

She turned that personal experience into public action. Steib was a driving force behind Louisiana Act 276, passed in 2017, which prohibits public post-secondary institutions in Louisiana from asking questions relating to criminal history for purposes of admissions. Similar legislation has passed in three additional states and continues to expand.

She has served as co-chair of the healthy families committee for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transition team; worked as a policy consultant for Cut50’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women campaign; was appointed by the governor to the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment oversight council; and is the vice chair of the Louisiana Task Force on Women’s Incarceration. She also helped create and was featured in the Newcomb Art Museum’s Per (Sister) exhibit, which shared the stories of currently and formerly incarcerated women. And, she was selected to participate in the 2019-2020 Unlocked Futures cohort.

Organization:

Operation Restoration, New Orleans

Area of Focus:

Women’s empowerment

Fellowship Project: 

Connect formerly incarcerated women to meaningful employment in the film industry while also addressing other needs.

“We Are Fighting for You”: Q&A with Syrita Steib
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