Syrita Steib successfully pushed legislation to forbid colleges and universities from inquiring into the criminal past of most applicants. - Advocate photo by Mark Ballard
Donald Trump pardoned New Orleans criminal justice advocate Syrita Steib as one of his last acts in office Wednesday.
The pardon, according to the White House, relieves Steib of paying nearly $2 million in restitution for a crime she was convicted of when she was 19.
She was one of 143 people whom Trump pardoned or commuted their sentences.
Who is Syrita Steib?
Steib is the executive director and co-founder of Operation Restoration, which helps formerly incarcerated women with education, clothing, healthcare, employment, and more. The organization's website said Steib created the program to help others in her situation.
In 1999, when she was 19, she was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, 20 years in state prison, and ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution for her role in stealing cars and burning down an auto dealership in Tyler, Texas, according to a 2019 story on Essence.com. She was released in 2009 after serving nine years and two months of that sentence.
While in federal prison, Steib began taking community college courses. She felt education was the key to her overcoming anger issues and putting her life back in order.
But when she applied to the University of New Orleans, she was denied admission; she believes she was spurned because of her criminal history. Two years later, she reapplied, unchecked the box in which she disclosed a criminal history, and got in.
She later did the research that helped Democratic state Reps. Vincent Pierre, of Lafayette, and Ted James, of Baton Rouge, craft legislation that bans public colleges and universities from asking most applicants about their criminal history. The "ban the box" bill passed in 2017.