When she met a pregnant young prisoner struggling with drug addiction, a guard at Louisiana’s Transition Center for Women (TCW) offered to care for the baby when it was born. On May 17, 2023, the day before the child arrived, the guard found out that, at least in state prisons, no good deed goes unpunished.
The now-fired guard, Roberta Bell, was concerned about prisoner Katie Bourgeois, 30, who had been re-incarcerated for using drugs while on parole. Bourgeois had been at TCW a few months when she discovered she was pregnant. Calculating that her child would be born seven weeks before her sentence was up, she panicked, frightened that the baby would be taken by Child Protective Services.
“I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn,” Bourgeois said.
That’s when the kind guard became her guardian angel.
“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,” Bell said, recalling that Bourgeois replied, “Miss Bell, I’d love for you to take my baby, because I don’t have anyone else to do it.”
Bell offered to care for the newborn, even though that meant giving out her personal contact information to a prisoner, in direct violation of prison rules. TCW, an educational and training center in Tallulah for state prisoners within one year of being released, is privately-run for the state Department of Corrections by LaSalle Corrections, a firm whose motto is “Family, Caring, Community” – though all three were apparently forgotten in Bell’s case.
Bell’s supervisor said that “it sounded like a conflict of interest … but that he’d talk to some people in charge,” she recalled. After the supervisor talked to those “people in charge,” they determined she was in violation of her employment agreement. The day before Bourgeois gave birth, Bell was fired.
Since then, Bourgeois has been released. She and newborn son Kayson are staying with Bell until Bourgeois can find employment and a place of her own. “She and Kayson are welcome to stay here for as long as they need to,” Bell said, adding: “I’m excited for Katie and what the future holds for her.”
While she thinks about her future employment, the former prison guard has found temporary work helping one of her neighbors care for an elderly parent eight hours a day.
“Losing my job has been hard,” Bell said, adding that her kids have been helping out. But she has no regrets. Every time she holds Kayson, she said, she knows it was the right decision.
Sources: The Guardian, Washington Post
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