Current Leader

Syrita Steib

Syrita Steib
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana Cohort Start Year: 2020 Project Topics: Criminal Justice, Health Care Access, Health Care Quality, Public Policy, Public, Population and Community Health, Racial Justice, Social Sector/Non-Profit, Violence and Trauma Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), Adults (21-64 years), African-American/Black, At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Homeless Populations, Immigrants and Refugees, Incarcerated or Formerly Incarcerated Populations, LGBTQ+ Communities, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+), Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories, Victims of Crime
Executive Director
Operation Restoration

Syrita’s vision of a Culture of Health is an empathetic and caring community that recognizes trauma and social inequity as the driving forces of crime that require community-based healing and holistic solutions. She believes that communities responding to crime should seek to restore and improve the lives of all people impacted by the criminal legal system, including those criminalized and those victimized by systems. Syrita’s work highlights mass incarceration as a public health issue that must be urgently addressed by recognizing the root causes of crime and criminalization while dismantling the economic and political incentives that encourage systems to grow at the cost of human lives and perpetual suffering.

Syrita believes that no policy or program should be designed without the leadership of formerly incarcerated people; thus, she focuses on uplifting the voices and experiences of formerly incarcerated women as experts, healers, and problem-solvers. She uses her platform to create pathways for other directly impacted women to enter the nonprofit sector because she knows from personal experience that women impacted by incarceration have a wealth of knowledge and leadership potential that is at best “untapped” and at worst diminished or ignored. Syrita is the founder and executive director of Operation Restoration, an organization created for and by formerly incarcerated women in New Orleans to support women and girls impacted by incarceration to recognize their full potential, restore their lives, and discover new possibilities. Her home state of Louisiana until recently incarcerated more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, which has a devastating impact on the overall health of our communities.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Operation Restoration Reentry Support for Women & Girls
My strategic initiative addresses the impact of incarceration on public health in order to ensure that women and girls can lead safe and empowered lives, full of opportunity, upon release. I will analyze data from a health survey of over 100 clients served by Operation Restoration to identify advocacy and programming opportunities that will improve healthcare access and the overall wellbeing of women and girls impacted by incarceration. The findings from our survey will be grouped in themes based on social determinants of health, like employment, housing, education, and economic mobility. These determinants have a major impact on public health, and their effects can be addressed both through policy and reentry support around health and wellbeing. The specific priorities of the strategic initiative are to (1) build the case for increased health-related programming for formerly incarcerated women and (2) advocate for equal access to quality primary care, behavioral health, and preventive healthcare for all.

Syrita brings her personal experience, extensive knowledge, and unique perspective of the criminal legal system to her work. Syrita believes that mass incarceration further perpetuates health disparities. She advocates and demands for women to be included in conversations and decisions about their lives. She believes that in order to build a Culture of Health we must change the narrative and address incarceration as a public health issue. Syrita believes that no institution or system was designed for women and girls and that she has an obligation to dismantle systems that were never built for true inclusivity. She regularly speaks at conferences and facilitates conversations across the nation about the experiences of incarcerated women and the importance of true economic equity and what racial equity truly means.

Click here to watch Syrita’s Legacy Project video.