, founded in 1967 by Caroline Coon
Caroline Coon is an English artist, journalist and political activist. Her artwork, which often explores sexual themes from a feminist standpoint , has been exhibited at many major London galleries, including the Saatchi Gallery and the Tate.Coon was born to a family of Kent landowners and had...
and the late Rufus Harris (died 2007), is a UK agency that provides legal advice and arranges legal representation for people charged with the possession of drugs. Today Release is the oldest independent drugs charity in the world and continues to provide a range of services dedicated to meeting the health, welfare and legal needs of drugs users and those who live and work with them.
Mission and vision
Release is the UK centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law providing free and confidential specialist advice to the public and professionals. Release also campaigns for changes to UK drug policy to bring about a fairer and more compassionate framework to manage drug use in society.
Release believes the current system of drug laws results in unnecessary abuses of human rights, fails to protect individual and public health, erodes respect for the law, undermines democracy and generates corruption.
Release runs a national helpline which is staffed by drug experts as well as lawyers with specialist knowledge of issues affecting drug users and their families.
Founded in 1967, the aim of Release was to provide bail services to people arrested for drugs offences and to refer them to solicitors. A 24-hour telephone help line was set up and run by volunteers. Coon was the fundraiser and spokesperson for the organisation and Harris was the administrator. By the end of 1967 Release was based in an office at 50 Princedale Road, Holland Park
Holland Park is a district and a public park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in west central London, England.Holland Park has a reputation as an affluent and fashionable area, known for attractive large Victorian townhouses, and high-class shopping and restaurants...
. In its first two years, Release handled more than 2,000 cases. High-profile clients included John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...
and George Harrison
George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other...
, who donated £5,000 in 1969.
In 1969 Harris and Coon summarised their early work in The Release Report on Drug Offenders and the Law
, published by Sphere Books
-History:Founded in 1961, Sphere Books began work on its first publication, the 1962 paperback edition of Gottfried Benn's The Trainee Man. Originally part of The Thomson Corporation, Sphere was sold to Pearson PLC in 1985 and became part of Penguin...
Release gained charitable status in 1972, following a review of its activities by the Rowntree Foundation. By the mid-1970s, Release was supported directly by a Home Office
The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security, and order. As such it is responsible for the police, UK Border Agency, and the Security Service . It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs,...
grant, without compromising its libertarian principles.
Release has a long history of association with the heart of London and has been based in various premises around Old Street since the 1980s.
The agency ran a London bus advertising campaign
An advertising campaign is a series of advertisement messages that share a single idea and theme which make up an integrated marketing communication...
entitled "Nice People Take Drugs" in 2009, but it was pulled a few day later, amidst claims of censorship by the advertising regulators.
Release remains the UK's only dedicated free legal and drugs advice service, offering a helpline
A helpline was originally a telephone service which offers help to those who call. Many helpline services now offer more than telephone support - offering access to information, advice or customer service via telephone, email, web or SMS....
for drug users and their families. Specialists offer advice both to the drugs industry and the general public. It continues to advocate treatment over punishment for drug users.