‘This is me, There’s no changing:’ Vicksburg woman loses job after adopting newborn child of inmate
VICKSBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - A former Tallulah correctional officer from Vicksburg lost her job for what she believed was right, and nearly a month later, she isn’t having second thoughts.
Roberta Bell isn’t a stereotypical C.O. that you see in movies or T.V. shows that come off as hard-nosed and brash. She’s caring, light-hearted, and willing to make sacrifices for the people around her regardless of their social class.
That includes the inmates she interacted with nearly every day at the Louisiana Transitional Center for Women.
Bell worked at LTCW for over three years, but a few months ago, she was presented with a challenging situation.
“She was trying to find somebody that would help keep her baby until she finished her term,” said Bell.
An inmate, Katie Bourgeois of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was just months away from giving birth to her first child and was desperately looking for a caretaker.
“She was very concerned about Child Protection Services getting the baby and her not knowing where the baby was since she had such a short term to serve,” said Bell.
Bell, who claims she primarily worked in the facilities food hall, says the thought of her becoming Bourgeois’s child’s caretaker was just a joke amongst the staff.
Then, that joke was beginning to become a reality.
“Yeah! You want to give me your baby?,” said Bell, recalling the moment she first exclaimed that she was up for the challenge.
Bell says Bourgeois came to her later that same day and pleaded that she be the caretaker of her child.
“She said, ‘I really need somebody to get my baby when I get ready to have it because I don’t have anybody,’” said Bell.
According to Bell, the reason Bourgeois didn’t believe she had any other options was because her mother was recently going through a divorce, and she didn’t know if she would be up for the challenge as well as Bourgeois’ previous comments about CPS taking custody once the child was born.
Before the last step of the agreement could be sealed, Bell told Bourgeois that she still needed to speak with her employers at LTCW. Looking to ensure that no repercussions would come as a result of a potential deal.
Bell says she contacted her commanding officers weeks in advance of Bourgeois’ anticipated due date in May, but never heard a word until the hourglass was nearly empty.
“Nobody ever got back with me until it was about two or three days time for her to deliver,” said Bell.
Bell claims by that point, she had already exchanged her personal information with Bourgeois that was needed for when the hospital called upon the child’s birth.
That exchange of information with an inmate is what Bell says got her fired.
“I said, ‘Major Murray, if the hospital calls me to come get this baby, I’m going to get him.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to terminate you,’” said Bell.
Days after her termination, it happened.
Kayson Bourgeois was born May 17, and from that moment, Bell was officially on the clock of her new job.
The 57-year-old now lives at home in Vicksburg, watching over Kayson until the day Katie is released. Bell anticipates that day will be sometime in early-mid July, saying Katie was in for “minor charges.”
She says her plans for work following her caretaking duties are unknown, but her dream goal is to help even more people like Katie and Kayson.
“My passion was to open a recovery home for the women that are coming out of prison. 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,” said Bell.
As mentioned earlier, when asked if she could go back and do anything differently about the situation, Bell replied in the most Bell fashion she could.
“I wouldn’t because this is me. There’s no changing. I’m stubborn. Once I do something, that’s it. I’m not going to change my mind. I’m not going to back down. I’ve never been that type of person. I think that God has created me to administer to the women that don’t know him,” said Bell.
Bell says she’s anticipating the day Katie and Kayson are reunited with each other and that she’s blessed to have been a part of something bigger than her job.
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