Date: October 13, 2022
This article from the Hagerstown Herald-Mail highlights a recent site-visit former House Speaker Paul Ryan did to Gatekeepers, a recidivism reduction program based in Maryland. Gatekeepers is working to help people reacclimate to their community and transform their lives following interactions with the criminal justice system.
The visit was part of the American Idea Foundation’s ongoing efforts to validate and scale evidence-based poverty fighting programs. Gatekeepers has recently partnered with the University of Notre Dame to quantifiably evaluate the program’s impact. They’re doing amazing work with the help of the Hagerstown community and Paul was grateful to learn more about the Business of Living program.
The Herald-Mail: The Business of Living: Former House Speaker Ryan supports program in Washington County
By: Mike Lewis
Through his foundation, Paul Ryan scours the nation, looking for effective programs that help people escape poverty.
He thinks he’s found one in Hagerstown.
“I am here for just a basic reason, to bring praise to what Bill (Gaertner, executive director of Gatekeepers) and all the folks at Gatekeepers have done and to bring some money to make sure that Gatekeepers stays successful,” Ryan said during his visit to Hagerstown this week.
“I’m just here to see how Gatekeepers works and why it’s so successful at getting people to stay out of prison once they’ve returned to the community,” Ryan said before the luncheon.
Ryan met with people in the Gatekeepers program during a forum and a luncheon Monday at the Horizon Goodwill facility on North Prospect Street. He was joined by U.S. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat who is running for reelection for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District; Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill, several representatives of city and county government, local business leaders and people who have returned to the community after spending time behind bars.
After retiring from politics, Ryan started the American Idea Foundation. Its goal is to invest in evidence-based programs that fight poverty and promote upward mobility, then replicate them around the nation.
What is the ‘Business of Living’ program?
Gatekeepers is something of a clearing house for people who have spent time behind bars. It focuses on re-entry and reducing rates of reoffending and recidivism.
Among other things, Gatekeepers has developed what Gaertner has dubbed the “Business of Living” program. It’s a process designed to help formerly incarcerated people get on their feet and pursue their goals.
That program is taught inside Roxbury Correctional Institution and the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown as well as the Washington County Detention Center and the county Day Reporting Center.
Since mid-March, a digital version of the Gatekeepers Business of Living program, with videos, has been put onto tablets that are inside more than 250 correctional facilities around the nation. At the end of September, more than 1,200 inmates have completed the tablet version of the program, according to statistics from Gatekeepers.
Now the organization is working with the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame to develop evidence-based data for Gatekeepers. A multi-year study will examine the Business of Living program’s impact on the local recidivism rate.
Gatekeepers was one of five nonprofits in the country to receive financial and strategic support from the American Idea Foundation this year, according a news release the organization issued in September.
The release did not disclose the amounts of the grants.
“With polarization, partisanship, and cynicism on the rise in America, we have an obligation to strengthen civil society and support organizations that are making a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Ryan said in the release.
He said the grants “will help create bodies of evidence and grow bodies of evidence. They will promote innovative strategies and solutions with track records of success. And hopefully, they will take some of the politics out of fighting poverty.”