Russell Funk is a veteran United States Marine and an activist. While serving a life sentence for a bar fight gone awry, he spent his incarceration becoming a certified drug and alcohol counselor and then spent three years as a mentor and counselor for other incarcerated men battling addiction and seeking recovery. Russell dedicated himself to self-improvement and education, achieving 80 college units while taking courses in prison. He met Ben in LA County’s Men Central Jail in 2004 and the two became lifelong friends.
Russell eventually was granted parole in 2016. Wanting to give back to his community, he became a mentor for the parole department, taking freshly released parolees under his wing. As a master SCUBA diver, he founded R&R Marine, a company that trains recent parolees to dive so they can clean and repair the hulls of boats in the harbors within LA County. “I feel like everyone deserves a soft place to land when they first get out of prison,” he said. “The odds are already stacked against people being released and I feel like God has called me to give those people a leg up in the world, offer them a useful and marketable skill, and mentor them about the pitfalls to avoid and the necessary steps to take to meet the benchmarks required to successfully discharge their parole.” Russell derives his passion from helping other formerly incarcerated people learn the value of keeping their word, completing tasks, and knowing when to stop and take a breath to relax in this hyperspeed, rush-rush world.