When Roberta Bell decided to become a correctional officer at Louisiana Transitional Center for Women in Vicksburg, Mississippi, her goal was to help the folks who are sentenced there to better their lives. That’s why, when given a special opportunity to do just that, she didn’t hesitate to take it, even if that meant losing her job. It all started when the 58-year-old officer heard that an inmate was nearing her due date.
VIDEOS BY INSPIRE MORE
At the time, Katie Bourgeois was expected to give birth in just a few months. Her expected release from prison, however, was about seven weeks after that. The 30-year-old hadn’t found out she was pregnant until she was already serving time for “minor charges” related to drugs. She was afraid of giving birth before being released because she didn’t know if she’d ever see her baby again when Child Protection Services would inevitably get involved.
Although Katie would have loved to have temporarily had a family member or friend keep her newborn, there wasn’t anyone in her life who could or would. Plus, this isn’t her first time dealing with similar circumstances.
The first time she gave birth, she gave her child to a friend who promised Katie she’d keep them in her life. Soon enough, however, that promise was broken. She did not want anything like that to happen with this baby.
“I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn,” Katie said.
Since Roberta is known to have a heart of gold, folks sent Katie her way. At first, the idea of Roberta taking in the child was a joke between staff, but it quickly turned into an idea that the officer was determined to make happen.
“I knew it was the right thing to do,” Roberta said. “When I asked Katie if she’d like me to come and get her baby when it was time, you could see the relief on her face. She said, ‘Miss Bell, I’d love for you to take my baby because I don’t have anyone else to do it.'”
Knowing there was a rule that staff and inmates aren’t allowed to exchange personal info, Roberta reached out to her commanding officers weeks ahead of Katie’s due date, hoping they could make an exception.
“Nobody ever got back with me until it was about two or three days time for her to deliver,” Roberta said.
At that point, she and Katie had already exchanged information, but Roberta didn’t care. She stood by her actions.
“I said, ‘Major Murray, if the hospital calls me to come get this baby, I’m going to get him,'” she recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to terminate you.'”
Although it hurt to be let go from her job, Roberta was quickly reminded why it was worth it when Kayson was born on May 16.
“So many of [the women in prison] have been used and abused and have had hard lives on the streets,” Roberta said. “I found that if I showed them a little love, it went a long way. I sensed that Katie was a good person who had just made some bad choices in her life.”
After taking care of Kayson for a few weeks, Katie was released from prison on July 4. Now, the two of them are staying in Roberta’s home until Mom is able to get a job – long-term she wants to be a hairstylist.
“How can I thank this woman?” Katie said. “She’s a stranger who showed so much love. If not for this angel, I don’t know what I would have done. I feel like I’ve found a friend forever in Miss Bell.”
Now, without a job herself, Roberta is pursuing a long-time dream of her own.
“My passion was to open a recovery home for the women that are coming out of prison,” she said. “I have not been successful in that yet, but I know that I will be. To get them away from the surroundings that they were in that caused them to get in trouble. That’s my passion.”
In fact, there’s now a GoFundMe page so that Roberta can do just that. So far, over $42,000 of the desired $150,000 has been raised.
“To see his little face and his smile – it was just a joy,” Roberta said. “And now, to watch Katie with him and see all of that love and the promise of a new beginning has made it all worthwhile.”
You can find the source of this story’s featured image here!
Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.