Jelly Roll Gives Back to Detention Center Where He Was Once Incarcerated

Jelly Roll‘s life could have turned out much, much differently. The 38-year-old, whose real name is Jason DeFord, was in and out of juvenile detention centers as a teen, charged with crimes like aggravated robbery and drug possession with intent to deliver. Fortunately, Jelly Roll turned his life around, and today is an outspoken advocate for those who struggle like he once did.

After recently selling out Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Jelly Roll announced that all of his proceeds from that night would go to Impact Youth Outreach, to build a state-of-the-art recording studio at Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center in Nashville — the same place he was once incarcerated.

“You couldn’t have told that kid sitting in B pod and cell 20 that he was going to go on and sell out the arena downtown and give all that money back to that juvenile,” Jelly Roll told Music Mayhem. “That was when I realized – when I was standing there looking at my old cell. And I hope that, hopefully, this sheds light on a situation that is easily glossed over. If you don’t know a kid that’s been in trouble or had a tough upbringing like that, then you don’t think about the impact that it’s having on those kids.”

Although Jelly Roll has had plenty of success recently, including a hit single with “Son Of A Sinner,” his time in prison had a profound impact on his life, which is why he is so determined to help others in the same situation he once was in.

“I was in and out of there for about three, three and a half years,” Jelly Roll told People. “I spent a lot of time there and eventually got charged as an adult for a crime I committed as a juvenile. And I just realized that was the most impactful thing that ever happened in my life, and the darkest moments of my life still were being that 15-year-old scared kid spending Thanksgiving away from his family.”

In an unlikely turn of events, it was while he was incarcerated that the first hint of Jelly Roll’s music career began. Back then, it was just a dream of becoming something more, but now that that dream is a reality, he vows to pay it forward as much as possible.

“I knew that I wanted to give back whenever I was in a situation to, and I always knew I wanted to make it really personal,” the Nashville native said. “So, I went back to the same juvenile [detention center]  that I started doing music at. I wrote some of my first raps there, had my first big rap battle there.”

In spite of his busy career, Jelly Roll still makes it a point to visit that detention center where he once was, hoping his life and career can inspire others.

“I was in the juvenile [detention center] on Thanksgiving and we were feeding the kids and every one of them would walk up to the window where we were serving food out of them and go, ‘Jelly, are you really building studios up here?’” he recalled. “And that was cool to see that the buzz was already running through the juvenile.”

All of Jelly Roll’s music and tour updates can be found by visiting his website.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBR Music Group / Chum Daddy