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 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.
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 member in the local New Orleans.
Education Programs Coordinator
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.
Katherine (Kat) Walden is a recent transplant to New Orleans from her hometown, Philadelphia, PA. Back home, Kat attended Temple University where she graduated with a B.S. in Human Development and Community Engagement. While at Temple, Kat served as Campus Leader and Student Intern for the Petey Greene Program. The program recruits and trains volunteers, primarily undergraduate and graduate students, to provide free tutoring to support the academic goals of incarcerated students. Post graduation, Kat worked as a Division Manager for the organization where she recruited volunteer tutors, oversaw campus leadership groups at partnering universities, and fostered relationships with correctional facilities to ensure a successful program for both the incarcerated students and the volunteer tutors. During this time, she volunteered for the Bread and Roses Community Fund, a cross-race, cross-class, multigenerational group of Philadelphia community members who raise money to provide grants for grassroots organizations focusing on racial and economic justice in the Greater Philadelphia Area. At Operation Restoration, Kat is going to focus on boosting educational opportunities for women directly and indirectly impacted by incarceration, specifically through the college in prison program and then Women FIRST Clinic.