A woman who received a pardon from former President Donald Trump before his last day in office last week said she's "thankful to God that He can use any vessel to bless you.”
Syrita Steib of New Orleans, Louisiana, is a criminal justice advocate. But before that, she was serving time in prison after she was convicted of stealing cars and burning down a car dealership in Texas in 2000 at age 19. She was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and 20 years in state prison.
Although she was released from prison in 2009, the judge ordered her to pay $1.9 million in restitution.
One of the people who advocated for Steib's pardon was former New Orleans Saints player Benjamin Watson.
On Tuesday night, Trump pardoned Steib along with 142 others, including New Orleans rapper Lil’ Wayne.
She no longer has to pay back the $1.9 million and said she's in awe that Trump was the person God used to release her from that burden.
“I think I’m still trying to soak it in,” Steib said in a Wednesday interview with CBS News affiliate WWL. “[I’m] really, really thankful to God that He can use any vessel to bless you.”
Steib told WWL that before she committed the crimes she excelled in academics and even had a full scholarship to Xavier.
“School was one thing that I really excelled in so when I got arrested, I had a full scholarship to Xavier in physics and engineering and I also was in the military,” she said to WWL. “When I got out, I just knew I needed to go back to school.”
Although she graduated from LSU Health and Science Center in 2014, Steib told WWL that she initially struggled to get into college because of her felony conviction.
Steib lobbied the Louisiana state legislature to pass the “ban the box” bill that prohibits colleges and universities from asking about an applicant's criminal history. It was passed and signed into law in 2017. She's now working to get similar bills passed in other states across the country.
She also founded Operation Restoration, an organization that helps women get established after they're released from prison. According to the website, Operation Restoration is “committed to providing current and formerly incarcerated women “with the resources necessary to sustainably transition home through higher education, employment training, job placement, case management, and advocacy.”
After receiving the presidential pardon, Steib declared in an interview with The New Orleans Advocate that “It’s a possibility that you can leave behind your mistakes and be completely transformed.”