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River Parishes native pardoned by Trump in final hours of his presidency

LAPLACE — Vacherie native Syrita Steib was among 143 people pardoned by Donald Trump in the final hours of his presidency.

Steib is the executive director of Operation Restoration, an organization that helps women and girls across Louisiana break down barriers to successfully reintegrate into society after incarceration. The nonprofit focuses on breaking down barriers to employment, education, housing and other means of self-sufficiency.

Steib believes, “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.” According to the White House, the pardon relieves Steib of paying nearly $2 million in restitution for a crime she was convicted of in 1999.

At age 19, Steib was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison for auto theft and burning down a dealership in Texas. She was released from prison in 2009 at the age of 29. The world had changed vastly within the decade. As she tried to adapt to re-entering society, she discovered her past criminal history was preventing her from pursuing a college education.

Having to check a box to indicate a prior conviction led to rejections on applications. It took Steib’s persistence and the help of state representatives to push forward the “Ban the Box” bill to give ex-offenders a fair chance at pursuing education at public colleges and universities.

Operation Restoration runs 15 programs dealing with advocacy in legislation, case management services, providing clothing, Medicaid enrollment and a multitude of other services to help people land back on their feet. Steib intends to work with Parish President Jaclyn Hotard to offer services to women in St. John the Baptist Parish.

A White House press release stated that Judge Sandra Jenkins of Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and Marjorie Hebert, president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, both supported Steib’s pardon.

The release further stated that the pardon was directly linked to Steib’s role in criminal justice reform.

Steib received the news via a phone call at midnight Wednesday. The call was unexpected, and it took Steib a moment to stir out of her sleep and process what was happening. When she realized she had been pardoned, Steib immediately felt thankful.

“I’m very grateful that President Trump was used as a vessel to bestow this blessing upon me,” Steib said.

She encourages others in similar situations to not let their past hold them captive and to always work toward achieving their dreams, no matter the roadblocks.

“If anybody sees something that is wrong or they feel passionate about something, it only takes one person to work on it and change it,” Steib said. “I don’t want anybody to be discouraged about anything they are passionate about.”

Steib is the daughter of Attorney Sylvia Taylor of LaPlace.