Our Place D.C.: Treating Ex-Cons With Compassion


A sign at Our Place D.C.

Women behind bars have rights, too.

That’s the premise behind Our Place D.C., a non-profit that helps and advocates for  currently and formerly incarcerated women.

“While I know the goal is to protect society from offenders, I’d like you to ask yourselves how long should this punishment endure after the offender has served her sentence and at what cost?” reads one of the large signs posted at its office on K Street Northwest.

Ashley McSwain, executive director of Our Place, said the group helps reduce how many former prisoners commit new crimes and go back to jail – something that benefits everyone.


HIV 101

She’s especially proud that Our Place hires back 60 percent of its former clients: “The women we serve are running our company. I love that; it’s the neatest part of this team.” Often, women who are released from prison take a bus straight to K street, arriving with nothing more than the clothes on their back. McSwan described what happens after that bus ride:


The first thing clients see, when they enter Our Place.

“A woman will come in and meet our drop-in center manager, and they determine what her needs are. They prioritize: does she have a warrant? Does she need to see an attorney? Our client’s needs dictate the order of services. If she needs a job, we help her find employment. If she needs housing, a case manager helps with housing assistance. As long as she has a need, she can continue to come to us, until she gets all of those needs addressed. We want her to be successful.”

Our Place, which served 1,500 women in 2010, provides a 15-minute training on preventing the transmission of Human Immunodefiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.


Shirts, blouses and sweaters, size Medium, in the boutique. Clients can receive a week's worth of clothing or specific outfits, like interview attire.

It also provides a support system “A lot of women that we see inherited poverty. Their parents were addicts. They didn’t have a fighting chance. They have been sexually abused and violently beaten by loved ones. We facilitate a transformation through learning and knowledge. These women need a catalyst to make different choices.”

But the services come at a cost, as the group makes abundantly clear by large signs on its walls. One reads: “It takes $9,737 to provide birth certificates, ID and police clearance to 1,324 women over the course of one year.”
For more information or to donate SmarTrip cards, children’s books, socks, new under garments, food and other items, visit the group’s website, www.ourplacedc.org

  • http://sheenatabraham.wordpress.com/ Sheena T Abraham

    Love the signs, especially the saint/communist one. Thanks for bringing attention to the needs of these women.

  • Desiree Venn Frederic

    Our Place, DC not only rebuilds a woman’s life but her self efficacy!!

  • Jacqueline Craig-Bey

    I have been affiliated with Our Place, Dc since I came home from the Federal system in 2001.  Since then, I have relapsed, been in the hospital, lost housing, found housing and now I am on a new job, but the bottom line is that Our Place was there or me all of the time.  Sure, sometimes they told me things that I did not want to hear, but that is the gist of tough love.  I am so thankful to Our Place for keeping me on track when I felt that the track had ended.  They add sunshine to a cloudy day and I am grateful to be a part of such a wonderful organization.  Thank you Our Place for taking time out to care.