NOLA criminal justice advocate pardoned by former President Trump expresses gratitude
NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans criminal justice advocate who went to jail as a teenager, now pardoned by Former President Donald Trump is astonished and elated by the outgoing President's decision.
According to WWL-TV, Mr. Trump issued a late night pardon to Syrita Steib, who has been haunted by her arrest record for the past 20 years.
Now that the record is no longer an issue, Steib finds herself in a state of shock.
“I think I’m still trying to soak it all in,” Steib told reporters Wednesday afternoon, shortly after learning of Trump's pardon.
Former Saints player Benjamin Watson advocated for Steib’s freedom. Tuesday night, and the former president agreed, pardoning Steib and 142 others, including New Orleans rapper Lil’ Wayne.
Steib said, “Really, really thankful to God that he can use any vessel to bless you.”
As the founder of Operation Restoration helping incarcerated women transition into society through education, housing, and job help, Steib is well aware of the roadblocks these women face.
She's battled the same challenges herself, and at times felt as if she and women like her were being overlooked by the system.
“From actually growing up in prison and being released, there weren’t really a lot of services in New Orleans and I felt like women were forgotten about and they weren’t talked about,” Steib said.
WWL-TV reports that in 2000, when Steib was 19 years of age, she was convicted for stealing cars and burning down a car dealership in Texas. She was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, 20 years in state prison and $1.9 million in restitution. She was released in 2009.
“School was one thing that I really excelled in so when I got arrested, I had a full scholarship to Xavier in physics and engineering and I also was in the military and when I got out, I just knew I needed to go back to school,” she said.
Steib graduated from LSU Health and Science Center in 2014, but not after struggling to be accepted into college. That's why she helped pass the 'ban the box' bill in 2017 so colleges and universities will avoid asking applicants to detail their criminal history.
“We have a goal of getting it passed across the country,” she said.
She's served her prison sentence, but this pardon relieves her of paying the nearly $2 million in restitution.
“For me, it’s truly about moving past a mistake I made at 19, 20 years ago and not having it to haunt me every day,” Steib said.
She views the pardon as an unexpected fresh start.
While the new start is beneficial, as it is a presidential pardon, this means it only applies to federal cases. So, Steib is still challenging her conviction in Texas for the same crime. WWL-TV says she plans to continue her work to help incarcerated women become accustomed to life outside of prison.