Sister Carol Peloquin, SNJM, C.M.

Sister Carol Peloquin was a volunteer and prison chaplain in Manitoba penal institutions such as Stoney Mountain Penitentiary and Rockwood Institute. About 17 years ago, she began a program called Next Step that offered inmates practical input on money management, addictions, nutrition and one-to-one meetings, prior to release and during parolees’ first months in the community. As a nun in the order of the Sisters of the Holy Names, Sister Peloquin was able to organize volunteers and provide encouragement, friendship, and the life-skills needed by those about to be released on parole. This support ranged from assistance getting birth certificates, to employment, housing, social assistance, opportunities for further education and job training.

Sister Peloquin then noticed that many of the inmates in Manitoba’s system often returned to prison, typically due to a lack of housing. Homeless prisoners would easily relapse into old patterns and a cycle of violence would culminate in their return to prison. Taking the initiative, without government aid or funding, she worked to set up a safe house called Quioxote House, to act as a place for those without homes, recently released on parole, who needed a safe and sober living environment.

For the last 10 years it has operated as a real home for ex-offenders – those without income, without family, without hope and who have been released from prison but are still on parole. Residents in Quixote House have gone through the Next Step Program while still in the prison system. Once released, they can live in a modern, clean and supportive home to establish themselves in the community. Both Next Step and Quixote House receive no government funding to this day. They operate quietly in the city’s downtown, providing help for homeless ex-offenders and allowing them to reintegrate and break the cycle of violence.

While the Next Step Program began the process of reintegration, and while Quixote House gave a family-like, safe-space for parolees, there was the question of what to do after someone had completed parole and found employment. There was a need for more space, another type of living-space, where successful ex-offenders could go after Quixote House. This was the creation of Massie House – right next door. It provides a continuation of Quixote House for those now living off parole, as a safe environment maintaining close ties to their peer-group.

The work of Sister Carol has been taken over by an independent registered charity – Future Hope which funds her work and Sister Carol has never retired. She continues to work with the prison system, and she is the admission’s director for Future Hope facilitating the entry of ex-offenders. It has been estimated that because of her work, hundreds of ex-prisoners have found stable homes and beaten the cycle of violence and poverty. On a purely practical level this has saved the province millions of dollars in prison housing costs. On a more qualitative level, she has saved hundreds of lives.

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