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 a nationally certified and licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist. 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. Syrita is the founder and Executive Director of Operation Restoration (OR). Syrita successfully drafted and passed Act 276 which became law on August 1, 2017. This law 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. Syrita is a founding member of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls which unapologetically advocates to end the incarceration of all women and girls. Syrita wants to bring awareness to the fact that Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere in the world. She is committed to changing this statistic one woman at a time.
Annie Freitas is a Ph.D. student in Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community program. Her research focuses on higher education in prison and she is interested in developing and evaluating policy and programming for prisons in Louisiana. Ms. Freitas is also the founder of the Louisiana Prison Education Coalition (LPEC), which was launched in 2015 and works to develop partnerships between colleges and prisons to ensure that every person who is incarcerated in Louisiana has access to higher education. LPEC operates the Women FIRST Clinic, which provides resources for formerly incarcerated women to achieve educational goals. In 2017, Ms. Freitas worked with Ms. Steib-Martin to research and write Act 276, making Louisiana the first state in the nation to “ban the box” in college admissions. In 2018, Ms. Freitas worked with Tulane University to start a for-credit college program in the Women's Prison. In her position as Co-Executive Director she will be continuing to build educational programs and researching and drafting legislation to support women in prison
Georgia Barlow is a graduate of Tulane University where she studied political science and international development. She was a Newcomb Scholar, where her research interests included how grassroots organizing helps New Orleans women and the implications of increased education on maternal health in developing countries. She has lived in Berlin, Germany while working as a research intern on international security for the Brandenburg Institute of Security and Society, and more recently she has been a grant writing intern at the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. She has worked in multiple New Orleans schools as a math and english teaching assistant and serves as a board member for Life and Hope Haiti.
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, in Floodlines: 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.