Realness Project

A nonprofit organization

$5,090 raised by 25 donors

16% complete

$32,000 Goal

Realness Project is a Colorado nonprofit that provides trauma-informed mental, social and behavioral health programming to incarcerated people and parolees.

Through interactive workshops, Realness Project is inspiring a transformation in the culture of incarceration by empowering human connection. 

The bedrock of our approach is a social, relational and behavioral technology called Authentic Relating (AR). AR combines mindfulness, embodiment, Nonviolent Communication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other scientific approaches to empower real human connection. 

Human connection has been proven to be a powerful antidote to isolation, depression, addiction, anxiety and loneliness. The impact of expanded human connection? A significant reduction in rates of recidivism over a five year period: from the national average of 50%, Realness Project has a 5% recidivism rate.  

Realness Project became the first organization to provide these powerful relational tools in correctional facilities in 2018. As of October 2023, the organization has served almost 1000 people in 10 Colorado facilities.

Learning Outcomes of Realness Project programming:

  • Empathy

  • Pro-social skills and behaviors

  • Increased Self awareness

  • Vulnerability, Humility, and Dignity

  • Advanced listening skills

  • Conflict management without violence

  • Nervous System Regulation

  • Resilience 

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Nonviolent Communication

Giving Activity


Transforming the culture of incarceration by empowering human connection.

Human connection is an antidote to addiction, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, and generates empathy, compassion, and care. When people care about themselves and the people around them, they are less likely to commit crimes against others.

Realness Project works with incarcerated people to address trauma and teach communication and conflict management skills. Our graduates emerge into our communities as better parents, neighbors and citizens. Our results are impressive: 5% recidivism. Human connection heals.

Vision: A justice system re-built upon the foundation of human dignity.

Background Statement

In 2017, Laurie Lazar began co-facilitating a Victim Impact Class at the Boulder County Jail. While the participants were engaged in the discussions, she wondered if the class had any long-term, transformational impact on the participants’ lives.

With an undergrad in Business, a Masters in Education and a Certification in a powerful relational technology called Authentic Relating (AR), Laurie’s curiosity began to grow as she started to visualize adding in the critical tools of AR into the curriculum. For example, how might the inmate’s lives be impacted if they were trained to navigate conflict through skillful communication rather than violence? Could the experiences of AR give incarcerated people a higher percentage of success once released from incarceration?

In a serendipitous moment, Laurie connected with friend and colleague Ryel Kestano, who was using AR methods while mentoring men at the same jail. Together, Laurie and Ryel brought the first-ever Authentic Relating workshop to the Boulder County Jail in January of 2018.

Many of the men in this workshop had been in Laurie’s Victim Impact class, and now she was able to observe their marked difference in engagement and excitement through the AR method.

After two days of training, participants began to share about the ineffectiveness of their previous therapy and intervention programs, expressing that there was nothing like this program offered in the correctional system and how vital it would be to expand into the Department of Corrections regionally and nationally.

That weekend was a game-changer for Laurie. She began reaching out to prisons throughout Colorado, offering the two-day workshop. From the movies, many of us know that it's not so easy to break out of prison. But what we don’t learn is that it's also hard to break in! Laurie called many prisons before one finally said yes. The first prison they delivered The ART of Being Human in was the highest level of security prison, Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City, CO. The class was half men who are labeled as sex offenders and half mentally challenged men. They didn’t know if this group would be receptive. And yet, even though the skepticism, a transformation occurred.

Laurie’s questions were being answered as she witnessed personal transformation happening for the participants. After delivering the workshop to dozens of incarcerated people in several institutions, the Realness Project was born!

Organization Data


Organization name

Realness Project

Year Established


Tax id (EIN)



Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy, Crime & Legal-Related, Human Services, Social Science, Mental Health & Crisis Intervention

Organization Size

Small Organization


1750 30TH ST PMB 204

Service areas