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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Colorado, those who are currently imprisoned have been particularly challenged.

A Boulder nonprofit known as the Realness Project, however, is aiming to ease the difficulty of that situation for some inmates.

Since 2018, Laurie Lazar has directed the Realness Project, a Boulder-based nonprofit a Boulder-based nonprofit that offers communication, relationship and conflict management programs to people in prison.

In a typical year, imprisoned people are allowed occasional visitors, but that privilege has been stripped due to COVID-19. Lazar said that inmates have been “unfathomably alone” during the pandemic with no clear end in sight.

To help prisoners out during these challenging times, the Realness Project developed a 14-day workbook, “Finding Ease in Isolation.” The workbook is a distilled version of their usual two-day seminar and teaches authentic relationship skills.

But equally important, it is a simple a reminder that people on the outside care, Lazar said.

The Realness Project is looking for $25,000 in donations to provide 2,500 workbooks. As of Monday, the campaign is approximately halfway to its goal, providing just over 1,000 workbooks.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people saying that it’s really helped them during this time,” Lazar said. “It has them feel like somebody on the outside actually cares about them on the inside during this time of extreme isolation, and gives them coping tools.”

Lazar added that the workbook has improved prisoners’ emotional well being and given them better tools to relate with others. According to the Realness Project’s website, over 98% of incarcerated people will eventually be released.

JoyBelle Phelan was released from prison in December and now lives in a transitionary halfway house. Phelan was first introduced to the Realness Project in prison after participating in their “Art of Being Human” seminar in July 2019. She immediately fell in love with the program and was allowed to return for another seminar as a graduate.

Soon before Phelan was released from prison, she reached out to Lazar in hopes of creating a support system and volunteering with the organization. Much to Phelan’s surprise, she was hired and tasked with developing a graduate program.

She is now working on offering the workbooks to prisoners who took the seminar and may need a refresher on the program. As a recently incarcerated inmate, Phelan understands the importance of having someone on the outside who cares.

“It’s crucial for people inside right now because especially with limited programming, no visits, no volunteers, something from the outside makes a difference for people that are still inside,” Phelan said.

“It shows that they’re not forgotten, people do still care about you and here’s something you can work on when not a whole lot else is happening because of COVID.”

For more information and how to donate, visit realnessproject.orghttps://www.realnessproject.org/, or tinyurl.com/s36czspu.