‘I can’t thank her enough‘: Inmate who asked correctional officer to care for newborn released from prison

Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 2:06 PM CDT
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VICKSBURG, Miss. (WLBT/Gray News) - A Mississippi woman who sacrificed her job and family stability for the sake of another woman’s child has been reunited with the mother.

Roberta Bell was fired from her job as a correctional officer at the Louisiana Transitional Center for Women in Tallulah after agreeing to raise the child of an inmate.

Since her firing, she has waited patiently for the day inmate Katie Bourgeois was released The day finally came Tuesday.

Bourgeois walked out of the LTCW at 8:45 a.m., and was greeted by Bell, who had a special surprise inside her vehicle.

For the first time since she gave birth in May, Katie was reunited with her son Kayson.

Bourgeois said she hardly had the words to express her gratitude to Bell’s sacrifice for her son’s well-being.

“I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done. Kayson’s doing great,” said Katie.

Bell then reflected on her last two months spent with Kayson.

“We’ve had some good days, we’ve had some hard nights. But it’s a joy, to be able to take care of somebody, love them, and treat them with love, and show them that they are loved,” she said.

Bourgeois is a Denham Springs, Louisiana, native who says the situation to ask for Bell’s help months ago was extremely difficult because she didn’t have any family to rely on.

Not even two minutes after Bourgeois expressed those emotions, Bell was already playing a parental role in her future life.

“If you’re going to better your life, you’ve got to be serious about that life. This is real, Katie. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy,” Bell said.

Even though she was giving Bourgeois future guidance and shooting her straight, Bell did praise her maturity from the day she met her at LTCW to her release.

“It’s just amazing to know that she wants to get the baby and raise the baby and change her life. To make it better for her and the baby,” Bell said.

Another reason Bourgeois said she wanted someone like Bell to watch over her newborn was because she wanted to avoid losing him to Child Protective Services, especially because Kayson isn’t her first child.

“My first kid, a friend of mine took her and said that I was going to be able to see her. Ended up saying that she would be in harm’s way if she was anywhere around me. I didn’t want that for Kayson,” Bourgeois said.

During her absence, a GoFundMe was set up by Bell’s family with a goal of $5,000. The money was to be used on the expenses it took for Bell to raise Kayson.

Only three weeks later, that number was over $12,000.

Bell was brought to tears when asked how the community support from not only Vicksburg or Tallulah made her feel, but the support all around the country.

“I couldn’t have done it without them because it was hurtful being, you know, given my job, it was hurtful, but all at the same time it was a good thing. You know, and so I love to make people happy. I love to see people happy because I want to be happy. And that baby deserves a life. He deserves a good life,” Bell said.

Bell said she accepted the fact that the child she had taken care of for two months was now going back to his mother.

“I love him. I love him dearly. But it’s her baby. And I want her to have her baby, because you know what? The baby is gonna bring joy to her, and her and her mom,” said Bell.

Bell says she is moving forward with her plans to build a recovery home in Vicksburg for women like Bourgeois who were just released from prison.

Meanwhile, Bourgeois says her goal is to get on her feet, find a job, and embrace her new role as a free mother.