Quote: “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
Syrita Steib has an unrelenting passion to help formerly incarcerated women succeed. Syrita is a
native of St. James Parish and 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. Operation Restoration 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.
Syrita’s experience was like that of many people returning from prison. For instance, 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. Syrita 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.
Syrita turned that personal experience into public action. She 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. Syrita has served as
Co-Chair of the Healthy Families committee for New Orleans Mayor Cantrell’s Transition Team;
worked as a policy consultant for Cut50’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women campaign; was
appointed by the Governor Edwards to the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Oversight Council;
and is the Vice Chair for the Louisiana Task Force on Women’s Incarceration. Also, Syrita
helped create and was featured in the Newcomb Art Museum’s Per (Sister) Exhibit, which
shared the stories of currently and formerly incarcerated women. She was selected to
participate in the 2019-2020 Unlocked Futures Cohort.
Organization: Operation Restoration, New Orleans, La.
Area of Focus: Women’s empowerment
Fellowship Project: Connect formerly incarcerated women to meaningful employment in the
film industry while also addressing other needs.