REAL (Reintegration and Empowering A Life)

REAL Employment Class GradsThe REAL project addresses the needs of people in recovery who are reentering the community following criminal justice system involvement. As is now understood, addiction is a chronic condition, with recovery a cyclical rather than linear process.  There are many elements to sustaining recovery ranging from re-engagement in treatment and relapse prevention, to full community reintegration by attaining employment and education, and healthy family and social relationships.

Over the past decade, research has shown both that treatment works and relapse happens.  The project is designed to help people in recovery better identify and manage signs of relapse and, where needed, more expeditiously reengage in treatment. The project also provides services to help people in recovery integrate into the economic and social mainstream.

People with criminal records face what are described as “overlapping burdens”.  The “collateral consequences” of a criminal record stymie community reintegration, particularly with respect to securing employment.  Recent research by Holzer et al.(2002) finds that 60% of employers said they would not hire people with criminal records.  In NYS, people with criminal records are barred from obtaining licenses for over 100 job categories absent a certificate assuring rehabilitation (Legal Action Center 2004; NYS Bar Association 2006).

The purpose of REAL is to improve and expand recovery services specifically targeted to people with criminal records by demonstrating a model of sustained “recovery management” that reflects seamless integration of key treatment, education and employment training services.

Sometimes a criminal history or fear of relapse can make it difficult to find and keep employment or to finish one’s education. REAL helps participants mitigate or lessen these barriers so they can achieve their dreams for themselves and their families.

The REAL program works with men and women over the age of 16 who:

  •     have a criminal history, including past arrests, convictions or incarcerations.
  •     are in recovery or have past history of substance abuse/addiction.
  •     are looking for a second chance to become a productive member of our community

REAL Services include:


Assistance with finding and keeping gainful employment by:

  • providing interviewing and resume assistance and job leads through our Career Resource Center
  • offering a two-week class that focuses on job keeping “soft skills” including interviewing, communication, listening, problem solving and conflict management
  • developing relationships with many area employers who have hired people with criminal histories. Class graduates may work directly with REAL’s Job Developer
  • offering participants the opportunity to take the National Work Readiness Credential test, which certifies to employers that an applicant is job-ready


REAL assists participants take the next step in their education. 

  • earn a GED
  • apply for and attend college
  • apply for and obtain financial aid
  • get past student loans out of default
  • enter trade school or job training

Relape Prevention and Recovery Support

Support groups, recovery check-ups and individual counseling are offered to help participants maintain their recovery and avoid triggers that could lead to relapse. Referral to treatment is also made when needed.

Civic Restoration

Through CCA’s Reentry Clinic, REAL helps participants with:

  • a criminal history record review
  • sealing arrest information that should lawfully be sealed
  • applying for Certificates of Rehabilitation
  • advocacy to administrative licensing agencies
  • counseling with regard to legal rights and obligations in searching for employment with a criminal record.

This program is delivered in collaboration with Crouse Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, a NYS OASAS licensed provider.  The treatment counselor works out of CCA’s office in Syracuse, NY.   Grassroots partners include Greater Syracuse Works, an employment advocacy collaborative and On Point for College, providing college enrollment services to first generation, college bound individuals, and educational assessments and planning for REAL participants.

115 E. Jefferson St., Suite 300
Syracuse, NY  13202

Services are funded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.