Russell Brand Donates Cafe to Charity to Support Ex-Prisoners, Those Struggling With Substance Use

Russell Brand Donates Cafe to Charity to Support Ex-Prisoners, Those Struggling With Substance Use

By Seth Ferranti 09/27/16

Every employee at Brand's Trew Era cafe is in recovery or an ex-prisoner.

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Russell Brand Donates Cafe to Charity to Support Ex-Prisoners, Those Struggling With Substance Use

Over a year ago, comedian and activist Russell Brand opened the Trew Era Cafe in east London. Named after his YouTube channel, The Trews, Brand set up the cafe as a not-for-profit social enterprise—his way of giving back by embracing those in recovery and not shunning them. Every employee at the cafe is either in recovery or an ex-offender.

Now, he's giving the cafe away to Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt), which works with prisoners struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. 

Brand is donating the cafe to RAPt so it can continue what he started, providing recovery and employment opportunities to ex-prisoners and people struggling with addiction.

The cafe, which Brand called a "fully self-supporting, new economic enterprise,” provides a safe haven for those in recovery and demonstrates that despite the negative stigma associated with former addicts, they can succeed and even thrive if given the chance.

RAPt’s headquarters, which provides support, workshops, training and employment opportunities, is next door to the cafe, which now joins a number of the organization's "recovery enterprises"—independent businesses staffed and run by people in recovery.

"I'm donating this cafe to RAPt, a great charity that helps prisoners stay clean," said Brand. "If I ever get sent down I hope this'll mean I get a cushy job in the library."

After supporting the cafe for a year, Brand now hopes it can be self-sufficient and continue to provide opportunities for those in need. 

Olly, a staff member at the cafe, likens the establishment to a place offering vocational training to people in recovery. He told Impolitikal last year that he wants to bust the myth of what an addict in recovery is really about.

“I’m in recovery, I brought a lot of the workers into this space, and I’m here to coordinate and manage their personal involvement with the space," said Olly. "My thing is about myth-busting: what is an addict in recovery? When I work with RAPt, one of my intentions is to help prisoners develop some sole trader occupations ... Therein I’m serving the social purpose of myth-busting: what it is to be an ex-offender.

Olly continued: "[Russell wanted] to offer vocational training to people in recovery, from 12-step recovery primarily.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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