Papers relating to Release drugs charity

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Mainly correspondence and subject files including: bust case sheets and correspondence, 1967-1976; advice case sheets and correspondence, 1969-1979; individual client files, 1969-1974, correspondence with prisoners, 1969-1974; transcripts of the Release therapy/discussion group, 1970; correspondence with solicitors and solicitors' forms, 1968-1972; correspondence and complaints to the police and other officials, 1971-1975; Windsor Free Festival, 1974-1975; Don Aitken's files (Information Officer), 1968-1974; Caroline Coon's files, 1967-1971; other Release workers' files, 1969-1975; general alphabetical correspondence series, 1967-1976; list of clients, 1972-1976; social/psychiatric daybooks, 1973-1976 and miscellaneous subject files, 1960s-1974. Also minutes, 1971-1974; end of year accounts, 1972-1975; Release publications, 1969-1977; other organisations publications (individual publications and files of collected publications) 1960s, 1970-1978.

Administrative / Biographical History

Release was founded in London in 1967 by Caroline Coon and Rufus Harris who established it as a direct response to the growing number of young people being arrested and/or imprisoned under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965. Initially the most important aspect of Release's work was to ensure that young people who had been arrested for drug charges were legally represented, as well as offer advice on individual rights regarding searches, arrests, court procedures and the interpretation of the law but Release rapidly developed into a national alternative legal and welfare organisation.

Release offered a 24 hour emergency phone service (established June 1967), as well as answering postal enquiries and operating as a drop in centre for visitors to its London office. Advice was offered on a whole variety of issues including drugs, police arrests, housing problems, medical/psychiatric problems, women's rights and abortion. Professional legal, psychiatric and medical advice was available through late evening sessions run by volunteer lawyers, psychiatrists and doctors.

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.

Reference: Caroline Coon and Rufus Harris, The Release Report on Drug Offenders and the Law (London 1969).


Most of the archive falls under section 3 of the Modern Records Centre's classification system (correspondence including subject files). The bust cases and associated subseries, and advice cases and associated subseries, have been placed at the start of section 3 with the remaining subseries placed in chronological order.Where a file has an original reference this has been retained as part of the title, eg. 7a Caroline Coon's Correspondence, but the original file references have not been used to arrange the archive as many files were without a reference and there was evidence of more than one system of referencing.

The Modern Records Centre uses a classification scheme. For further details of the scheme, see It is compatible with ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description (2000).

Conditions Governing Access

The archive is closed except with written permission from the depositor. For further details please contact the Modern Records Centre. In addition many files contain sensitive personal information which falls under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 and these files have been placed on 'conditional access' for 75 years. For researchers obtaining the depositor's permission to use the archive, access to these files will be conditional on them signing an undertaking agreeing to respect the terms of the Data Protection Act, including anonymising their research.

Acquisition Information

The initial deposit was made by Caroline Coon, Release's co-founder in 1977. Subsequent deposits were made in 1978 and 1979.

Other Finding Aids

A copy of this catalogue is available in paper format in the Centre's searchroom.

Authority records exist for Caroline Coon (GB 152 AAR2012) and Release (GB 152 AAR2013).

Conditions Governing Use

Material which falls under the terms of the Data Protection Act, and which is on conditional access, may not be photocopied.

Appraisal Information

This collection has been weeded for duplicates. A small number of files have been destroyed, mainly from routine/repetitive series such as thank you letters and requests for information. Invoices and routine administrative files have also been destroyed.


Further deposits are not expected.