ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) – Syrita Steib, a formerly incarcerated woman and policy reform advocate, is running for Louisiana’s available U.S. Senate seat in November. Steib, a native of Vacherie in St. James Parish, is the only woman to announce so far.
Her background is particularly different than her opponents. At 19, Steib was engaged in criminal activity, resulting in a 10-year sentence in federal prison, $1.9 million in restitution and a state conviction, as well. The crime had to do with the transportation of stolen cars across state lines.
“I was 19. I’m 42 now. But at that particular time, what I didn’t know was that I was really acting out of a space of trauma and dealing with a lot of unresolved issues from my childhood, which is what leads most women to prison.”
Steib has been out of prison since 2009. During the time since, Steib has worked to reform policies around justice reform and re-entry into society for formerly incarcerated men and women, which is the whole idea behind her organization, Operation Restoration. She was hired as a policy consultant for Dream Corps #Cut 50 and worked on legislation with them, such as the First Step Act. Steib’s work became known to the Trump Administration, and during his last day in office, former President Trump granted her a full presidential pardon.
However, her background has not just informed her criminal justice reform work. Steib says her experience in prison and in developing policies has also helped her better understand the factors impacting communities of people and how they need to be addressed in a collaborative way.
“There are these overarching things that we know that exist and that are always there. So, we’re looking at systemic things, things that have existed throughout history that definitely have to be addressed no matter what system we’re talking about.”
For Steib, issues impacting those systems include things like inflation and how it impacts communities of different socio-economic backgrounds.
“What keeps more money in the pockets of people in rural Louisiana looks very different than what keeps money in pockets for people in urban areas in Louisiana,” said Steib. “And I think that anytime we are making a decision about how we focus policy, we have to consider rural communities and urban communities and put our trust in communities that they know what they need.”
On a similar note, Steib emphasized that there are many factors impacting communities. She said instead of looking at the name of a policy and which political party carried it through the legislative process, we need to instead look at what policies actually look to address.
“I think there are a lot of policies that have been introduced specifically around being able to give access to broadband for instance in Louisiana,” said Steib. “I think a lot of times we look at policy as a whole. So people hear Build Back Better and they immediately say, ‘Oh my God, that is associated with Democrats. I want no part in it.’ Right? But how do we begin to talk about the things that are included in there? How do we begin to look at bills that attack infrastructure but also have a piece that is incorporated that deals with our healthcare system, that it also addresses education. And begin to look at getting beyond the names of policies, and seeing that this policy actually deals with this thing.”
A big topic of conversation around the nation in recent years, and a specific focus of the state legislature this legislative session, has been energy independence. A concern among many Louisiana legislators and residents is the impact a switch to clean energy, as promoted by the Biden Administration, would have on the state’s economy.
“I think that a lot of times when we start the conversations, we’re looking at it as to be energy independent, it has to be either-or. Right?” said Steib. “My family is very dependent on oil and gas, like much of the families in Louisiana. My dad retired from a petroleum company, my sister, my brother-in-law, my uncles, my cousins. That has been a primary source, especially in the river parish area, for people to take care of their families. I have so many family members that work inside the oil and gas industry.
“I don’t think that it has to be an either-or. I think it can be an and or in addition to. So, I think about Louisiana being poised where we’re placed to start attracting other energy sources. So, it’s not meant to be competitive or we’re going to take out one in order to replace the other. But, how can we become multi-faceted in this state? How can we lead, how you are able to do energy on multiple platforms?”
Steib also detailed how she would work for all Americans, specifically delving into her position around the leaked Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade and how policies can impact women differently depending on the circumstances they find themselves in.
Overall, Steib said she believes her work ethic and connection to the state make her uniquely suited to take up the office of U.S. Senator for Louisiana. She is running as a Democrat.
“I do think that I have more in common with the people of this state than anybody else,” explained Steib. “I think I come from a place of knowing that in order to get anything accomplished, that I have to work with everyone to make sure that everyone is considered in the decision we are making […] I don’t think that there’s anybody in this race that feels the way that I feel for the people of this state.”
Democrats Gary Chambers and Luke Mixon are also challenging
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