Ashlee Sellars grew up in Tennessee and has spent most of her life in the Nashville area. Today, she is an advocate for youth justice reform in both Tennessee and nationally.
Ashlee grew up in an abusive home without a support system. Eventually, she began living with a man who sold drugs for survival. When he asked her to take him out one evening, he robbed and killed someone. Media sensationalized the events leading to her arrest—even though Ashlee hadn’t killed anyone, media portrayals described her actions as “a killing spree” and “remorseless.” Ashlee was incarcerated at the age of 17 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Ashlee served over 21 years. During her time in prison, she worked hard to take advantage of educational opportunities—but as a result of her long sentence, she was often denied opportunities in favor of people getting out earlier. One of the biggest frustrations of her time incarcerated was not having a voice, which is something that continues to drive her to this day.
Since her release, Ashlee has been prolific in her community advocacy. She works with a number of organizations promoting restorative justice for youth involved in the criminal legal system, on advocacy for incarcerated women and girls, and voting rights. She is particularly driven to give young people the support she was often left without in her own youth and to ensure that trauma is recognized and respected. Among other organizations, Ashlee works with the National Council for Incarcerated Women and Girls, Free Hearts, Unheard Voices, Raphah Institute, and the ACLU.
She continues to be inspired by both the young people she works with and seeing her young child interact with community activists.