At Operation Restoration, we pride ourselves on cultivating a strong group of passionate and hard-working individuals who care about the work they do everyday.
Syrita Steib-Martin is the Executive Director of Operation Restoration. She has an unrelenting passion to help women successfully reenter into society after incarceration. At the age of 19, she was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison. After serving 110 months, she earned her B.S. from LSUHSC in New Orleans and became a nationally certified and licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist. Syrita is the founder and Executive Director of Operation Restoration (OR). Syrita successfully drafted and passed Louisiana Act 276 which prohibits public post-secondary institutions in Louisiana from asking questions relating to criminal history for purposes of admissions, making Louisiana the first to pass this type of legislation.She is working on the national Dignity for Incarcerated Women campaign after passing the legislation in Louisiana and regularly speaks at conferences across the nation about the experiences of incarcerated women. A panelist on the Empowerment stage at Essence Festival, she was on Mayor Cantrell’s transition team in 2018, was appointed to the Justice Reinvestment oversight council for the state of Louisiana, and chairs the Louisiana Task Force on Women’s Incarceration.
Annie Phoenix is the Policy Director of Operation Restoration, which she co-founded in 2016 to increase access to higher education and build collective power to end the incarceration of women and girls.
Annie has spent over a decade designing educational programming with people in prisons.
As an undergrad at Scripps College, Annie designed theater and writing programming for incarcerated youth and women and advocated for the inclusion of transgender students in women’s colleges. In 2011, Annie moved to New Orleans where she taught elementary and middle school earning a credential in both special education and english for grades K-8.
In 2015, Annie enrolled in Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community PhD program to research higher education and incarceration policy and practice. After co-founding Operation Restoration, Annie worked closely with Tulane to build the only secular, for-credit college program available to women incarcerated in Louisiana. Annie has also designed and taught service learning courses on gender and incarceration at Tulane.
Annie researched, drafted, and advocated for the successful passage of legislation in five states including six bills in Louisiana.
In 2017, Annie and Syrita wrote Act 276, making Louisiana the first state in the nation to “ban the box” in college admissions. Since 2017, Annie has worked with advocates in five states to pass legislation to remove criminal history questions from college admissions. In 2020, at least 15 states will introduce similar legislation.
In 2019, Annie facilitated the creation of Unlock Higher Ed, a national coalition to support formerly incarcerated advocates to lead the movement to increase access to higher education. Unlock Higher Ed has grown to include 30 member organizations and has supported over 40 formerly incarcerated advocates to travel to Washington DC to advocate for educational access.
Wendi Cooper is a transgender woman of color who is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She has been a healthcare provider and mental health professional for over a decade. Wendi earned B.S. in biology at Southern University at New Orleans in 2011. Additionally, she has an Executive Masters of Criminal Justice with a concentration of juvenile justice from Southern University. Because of her connections with the transgender community, Wendi was proclaimed by council member Latoya Cantrell before being appointed to Mayor Cantrell’s transition team. She was a community organizer for the NO Justice Project in New Orleans, LA where she provided key testimony in the federal lawsuit that successfully challenged Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law, securing the removal of more than 700 women from the sex offender registry.Wendi has been featured in an MSNBC News documentary on transgender women’s advocacy in Louisiana, inFloodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six by Jordan Flaherty, and in a Human Rights Campaign on Crime Against Nature by Solicitation feature story. Wendi’s goal is to help all women, particularly transgender women, to overcome their fears.
Director of Social Services
Nicole M. Lee is a native New Orleanian that attended Warren Easton High School. She earned her undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in Sociology. She went on to earn her Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix , and a Master of Social Work from Southern University of New Orleans. She specializes in mental health, and working with low-income community members in the local New Orleans.
Dolfinette Martin, the Operation Manager at Operation Restoration is a strong community leader who serves on the Formerly Incarcerated Transitional Clinic Advisory Board, a clinic created for formerly incarcerated people, the Criminal Background Check Review Panel for the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). Dolfinette was appointed to New Orleans first female Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s transition team and Essence’s first ever all female criminal justice reform panel. She was a founding member and former president of the NOLA chapter of National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. As a Formerly Incarcerated Person, Dolfinette earned a college degree in 2015 after her release from prison in 2012, and sets a powerful example for her children, grandchildren and her community.She is frequently asked to contribute her knowledge, expertise and wisdom on panels and media. A recipient of the John Thompson Leadership for Change Award and A Freedom Fighter Award, she created the Formerly and Currently Incarcerated Women and Girls Reentry project within VOTEs organization. Governor John Bell Edwards recently appointed her to sit on the Louisiana Women’s Incarceration Task Force based on her legislative advocacy.
Montrell Carmouche has a demonstrated passion and commitment for criminal justice reform in her native New Orleans. Due to harsh drugs laws, at the age of 21 years old she received a 262 month federal sentence- serving a total of 19 years 8 months, and 7 days. While incarcerated Montrell was the Co-Chair of her chapters Toastmaster-Second Chances International Prison Program chapter and an active member of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Only eight days after being released and while living at a half-way house- Montrell began her work at Operation Restoration (OR) where she found a community of other passionate women who shared her belief that all people deserve the chance to restore their lives and discover new possibilities post serving their sentence. Montrells was a perfect fit within the OR community with her passion for her LGBTIQA+ community and the knowledge that only through holistic services are we able to provide sustainable support for children of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents. At OR she was quickly promoted from volunteer to supervisor of “The Closet” where women are provided holistic services to ease their transition back into their communities and promoted to Coordinator of Mentor Services where she guides adolescent girls involved in the criminal justice system. Montrell was a featured panelist at the Newcomb Art Museums Per Sister Panel on Criminal Justice Reform and is an active member of the National Bail Fund Network and the Louisiana Incarcerated Women's Task Force. She is currently working with the New Orleans Safety and Freedom Fund to end predatory bail,bonds and fees and is connected nationwide with organizations with similar missions. Montrel is a pivotal member of Operation Restoration and believes deeply that through empowerment we are made a more just society.
Mary Okoth is a social worker and multimedia artist. She is a 2018 graduate of Tulane School of Social Work where she earned a Master of Social Work degree with a certificate in Disaster Mental Health and Trauma Studies. Mary completed her graduate field work at the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, the juvenile public defender's office. She has worked alongside the New Orleans community as a Project Manager at Solitary Gardens, a Homeless Outreach Coordinator with Grace at the Greenlight, and as a legal assistant serving families, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigrants at The Hite Law Group. Additionally, Mary was a selected participant in the Foundation for Louisiana's 2017 L.E.A.D. Fellowship. She is a 2014 graduate of Oberlin College where she double-majored in Studio Art and Art History.
Dr. Stephanie Gaskill
Stephanie Gaskill received her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2017. The centerpiece of her dissertation was The Life of Jesus Christplay, performed in 2012 and 2013 by incarcerated men and women from Angola Prison and the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW), respectively. She has received numerous grants for her research, including an in-residence dissertation completion fellowship at the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis and, most recently, a project grant for researchers from the Louisville Institute. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Gaskill has taught HiSET (GED) classes for women incarcerated at Orleans Parish Prison since 2017.
Latrice Romar-Carmon is a wife, mother, entrepreneur and an aspiring author; who is filled with passion, ambition and love for God. She holds a certification in business management and is an OSHA certified CSST Safety Coordinator. Latrice plays multiple roles by being an entrepreneur. She is the owner of Carmon’s Classic Hair Collection; Co-Founder of Ladies Walking in Purpose, LLC, Co-Founder of Parable Financial Solutions, LLC, Safety Coordinator with Performance Contractors Inc., mentor and student currently seeking her bachelors at Hope Bible Institute. Her goal is to impact the lives of young women by helping them to seek and walk into their purpose in life despite what obstacles stand before them.