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Why Did Jelly Roll Go to Prison?

Jelly Roll, also known as Jason DeFord, is an American rapper, songwriter, and producer from Nashville, Tennessee. He had a troubled youth and spent much of his teenage years and early 20s in and out of juvenile detention centers and jails on drug and robbery charges before finally serving significant prison time in the late 2000s. Here is an overview of Jelly Roll’s criminal history and what led him to serve time in prison.

Early Life and Troubles

Jelly Roll was born in 1981 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father was absent for most of his childhood and his mother struggled with addiction. He started using drugs recreationally at age 12 and was often in trouble in school. By 15, he had dropped out of school and was heavily involved in selling drugs and committing robberies.

Over the next few years, Jelly Roll was in and out of juvenile detention centers for drug possession and other charges. He continued getting arrested as an adult for things like parole violations, drug charges, and robbery. However, most of the charges were minor or ended up being dismissed, so he avoided major prison time in his late teens and early 20s.

The Robbery Conviction

Things changed for Jelly Roll in 2006 when he and two others planned and executed an armed robbery of a Tennessee motel. During the robbery, Jelly Roll physically assaulted the motel clerk by hitting him in the head with a handgun. The three made off with a few hundred dollars.

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Jelly Roll was identified and arrested shortly after the robbery and charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Key evidence included the motel clerk identifying Jelly Roll as the one who pistol-whipped him in the head.

Facing significant prison time, Jelly Roll ended up taking a plea deal in 2007 at age 26. He pleaded guilty to the aggravated robbery charge in exchange for the assault charge being dropped.

Prison Time

As part of the plea deal for the armed robbery conviction, Jelly Roll was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He ended up serving time in multiple Tennessee state prisons between 2007 and 2011.

Jelly Roll has been open about struggling with the adjustment to prison life. He frequently got into fights and struggled mentally with the loss of freedom and being away from his family. However, he eventually settled in and says prison is where he seriously dedicated himself to music and songwriting.

Here is a quick overview of Jelly Roll’s major prison sentences:

PrisonYears Incarcerated
South Central Correctional Facility2007-2008
Northeast Correctional Complex2008-2010
Turney Center Industrial Complex2010-2011

He was ultimately released from prison in 2011 at age 30.

Life After Prison

Since being released from prison, Jelly Roll has turned his life around and become a successful rapper and musician. Key milestones include:

  • Signed a record deal with Strange Music in 2015
  • Released his debut album Addiction Kills in 2015
  • Charted his first Billboard hit with the song “Creature” featuring Tech N9ne in 2016
  • Released his second studio album Confessions of a Swisher in 2018
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In interviews, Jelly Roll has been open about how prison changed his life. He took the time to reflect on his troubled past and decided to pursue rapping seriously upon his release. He has managed to leverage his criminal past and prison time into compelling song lyrics and remains dedicated to staying out of trouble.

Overall, Jelly Roll’s prison sentence for armed robbery from 2007 to 2011 marked a pivotal turning point in the rapper’s life. While difficult, it helped set him on the right track personally and professionally when he was released. His raw lyrics and unique background have helped fuel his success in the hip hop and rap scenes in recent years.

FAQs About Jelly Roll’s Incarceration

Why was Jelly Roll arrested in 2006?

In 2006, Jelly Roll was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated assault for the armed robbery of a motel in Tennessee. He had pistol whipped the motel clerk in the head and robbed the motel for a few hundred dollars along with two other individuals.

How long was Jelly Roll in prison?

Jelly Roll ended up serving close to 5 years in various Tennessee state prisons between 2007 and 2011 for the motel robbery conviction. He took a plea deal and was sentenced to 5 years for the aggravated robbery charge.

What was Jelly Roll convicted of?

Jelly Roll was originally charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated assault but took a plea deal. He pleaded guilty just to the aggravated robbery charge in exchange for the assault charge being dropped.

Where was Jelly Roll incarcerated?

Jelly Roll spent time in at least three different Tennessee state prisons between 2007 and 2011: South Central Correctional Facility, Northeast Correctional Complex, and Turney Center Industrial Complex.

How old was Jelly Roll when he went to prison?

Jelly Roll was 26 years old when he was sentenced to 5 years in prison in 2007. He was 30 years old when he was ultimately released in 2011.

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Did Jelly Roll go back to prison after his release?

No, Jelly Roll has not returned to prison since his release in 2011. He has stayed out of legal trouble while pursuing his rap career.

How did Jelly Roll turn his life around after prison?

Jelly Roll focused on music and songwriting while in prison. After his release, he dedicated himself fully to rapping and landed a record deal in 2015. Music gave him a creative outlet to turn his troubled past into compelling lyrics and songs.

What were the biggest challenges Jelly Roll faced in prison?

In interviews, Jelly Roll has been open about struggling mentally and with aggressiveness during his first stint in prison. He frequently got into fights and had difficulty adjusting to life behind bars at first before settling in.

How did Jelly Roll start rapping?

Jelly Roll started rapping and writing lyrics as a teenager, but said he didn’t take it as seriously until he was in prison. The time behind bars gave him the space to dedicate himself fully to songwriting and music.


In summary, Jelly Roll spent close to 5 years in prison from 2007 to 2011 for an aggravated robbery conviction stemming from a violent motel robbery. Despite struggling initially behind bars, he used the time to develop his rap skills and songwriting, which have fueled his successful music career since getting released. His unique background informs his lyrics and has turned him into a rising star in the hip hop and rap worlds. While difficult, his time in prison was a transformative experience that helped him turn his life around.

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About us

We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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