Operation Restoration Helps Formerly Incarcerated Women
“When women thrive, the community shines,” says Syrita Steib executive director of Operation Restoration(OR).
OR provides holistic wrap-around services to support formerly incarcerated women as they re-enter society. The organization offers these women resources that include higher education, employment training, job placement, case management and advocacy, all of which are necessary for the women to sustainably transition home.
Steib was incarcerated for 110 months beginning at the age of 19. She subsequently struggled to attend college due to the required indication of criminal history on applications for admission. She persevered. After graduating from the Louisiana State University Health and Sciences Center and becoming a nationally certified and licensed clinical laboratory scientist, in 2016 she started to build a support system for women impacted by incarceration and founded OR.
“We focus on a population that has been traditionally underserved and forgotten,” Steib says. “We intimately understand their needs because 80% of our staff and contractors are formerly incarcerated. By providing direct services, education programs and leading advocacy efforts, OR eliminates the need for women to engage in survival actions.”
Studies have found that women are often incarcerated because of unaddressed trauma and then endure additional trauma in the legal system.
“These women deserve healing and support,” Steib says. “So, we also provide case management and direct services to connect women to resources to process trauma and begin to heal.”
OR also developed a primary caretaker court to promote alternative sentencing to keep families together.
“Children deserve to be with their parents and parents deserve the resources to be successful,” Steib says.
OR’s education programs also contribute to reducing the literacy gap in our community. According to Stieb, 26% of adults in greater New Orleans are functionally illiterate, lacking the reading, math and computer skills to read medical instructions, complete school registration forms and online job applications. All of these factors make it hard to find and retain employment.
“Women deserve meaningful opportunities for employment so they can take care of themselves and their families before, during and after incarceration,” she says.
Operation Restoration Mission:
Operation Restoration supports women and girls impacted by incarceration to recognize their full potential, restore their lives and discover new possibilities.
44 % of formerly incarcerated black women are unemployed.
Nationwide, 60% of women in prison did not have full-time employment at the time of their arrest.
80% of women imprisoned are mothers, of which the majority are the sole caregivers for their children.
1 in 12 children in Louisiana have an incarcerated parent.
86% of women in jails are survivors of abuse and sexual violence.
Banning the Box on College Applications
Because of OR, Louisiana was the first state to pass Ban the Box in higher education legislation. The organization aims to end the discrimination faced by people with a criminal history when applying to institutions of higher education. In 2017, the organization wrote and passed LA Act 276 to prohibit public colleges in Louisiana from asking about criminal history. OR continues to work with advocates to pass similar legislation in Maryland, Washington and Colorado. Additionally, it formed a policy team of formerly incarcerated leaders and experts on this policy to lead a movement to “ban the box” in states across the nation.
From now until October 16, Operation Restoration is participating in A Community Thrives, a fundraising competition for OR’s Women FIRST Clinic. The Clinic supports formerly incarcerated women starting at early literacy through their high school equivalency and to meet any other educational goals. OR provides transportation, case management, childcare and snacks to women participating in the clinic.
Main office: 1450 Poydras Street, Suite 2260
Social Services Office: 2321 Thalia Street
Donation Mailing Address: P.O. Box 56894, 70156-6894
Phone: (504) 684-9222
How Can Readers Help?
OR currently ranks among the top 25 fundraisers of hundreds of organizations participating in the A Community Thrives challenge nationwide. They are still raising funds until October 16. The winning organization will receive an extra $25,000 if they raise the most money.
Volunteer: Complete this quick form.
Donate to OR’s general operations or a specific program.
How can businesses help?
Hire formerly incarcerated women and girls.
Be invested in making sure formerly incarcerated women and girls can take advantage of employment opportunities.