About Tasha

Tasha Mercedez Shelby was just 22 years old when she was arrested. She was just 25 when a unanimous jury sentenced her to life without parole.

She is now 47 years old.

Tasha’s whole life has been taken away from her and she will never be able to recover those years lost. However, Tasha is not bitter nor angry.

In fact, Tasha is filled with optimism, youthful spirit, and, above all, gratitude that she was given life and not death.

Tasha Shelby when she was younger

The first night after Tasha had been given her sentence of life without parole, she found herself unable to sleep. Instead of giving up or feeling angry, Tasha channelled all of her strength into writing a poem.

She can still recall what she wrote to this day and we have included it here:

Tasha’s childhood and family

Tasha and her father, Paul, moved away from her mother when she was just two years old.

Tasha was extremely close to her father and still recalls plenty of fond memories with him.

Her father died tragically when Tasha was just 14 years old.

Tasha and her dad, Paul, when she was a child
Tasha pictured again with her dad, Paul, when she was a child

After this, Tasha travelled across the country, staying with different family members, including her mother.  

She also moved schools frequently, failing grades and dropping out after falling pregnant at the age of 18. 

During this period, she faced constant rejection and eventual abandonment by her mother who she didn’t see again until Tasha was in jail.

Tasha became increasingly close with her Aunt Penny during her childhood. The two remain incredibly close today and Penny has campaigned tirelessly for Tasha since she was first sentenced, wholeheartedly believing in her innocence and using every connection she can to raise awareness of Tasha’s case.

Tasha, as a child, with her Aunt Penny

Tasha is also very close to her Aunt Linda and has received continued support from her during her incarceration. When Tasha was without her legal team, Aunt Linda stepped up and undertook a thorough investigation into every detail of her case. Linda continues to advocate on Tasha’s behalf today.

Tasha (on right) pictured with her siblings, Toni, Saira, and Jacob

Tasha’s life in prison


Tasha uses every day to set herself up for success so that she can give back and contribute to society once she is free.

While in county jail, Tasha achieved her General Equivalency Degree (GED) on her first try. But it almost didn’t happen when Tasha stopped attending classes due to her inability to pay for the exam. When a teacher spotted her potential and paid the fee, Tasha felt for the first time that someone believed in her and she was inspired to tutor other students.

After the trial, Tasha worked hard to gain her cosmetology licence:

 “I became the first women with a life without parole sentence to receive a cosmetology license at CMCF (Central Mississippi Correctional Facility).”

Tasha didn’t stop there, fighting for the right to take courses usually unavailable to lifers, including Business Technology, and is now certified in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

She was also selected to enroll as a student at Mississippi College where she was a star pupil:

“By the summer of 2016 I had the opportunity to be involved in a program called the Prison to College Pipeline Program. I am now enrolled as a student in Mississippi College. I have now earned 15 credits with 3.8 GPA.”

In her history essays, Tasha writes about her experiences as a wrongfully incarcerated woman and how she believes that criminal justice reform is needed. Throughout her time at college, she has learnt about her passion in history and now wishes to become a history professor.

“She described the way in which her courses with us had widened her world, given her hope, and helped her connect her experiences to other women over the course of American history.”

– Stephanie Rolph,a professor who taught Tasha (2017)
A photograph of Millsaps College where Tasha undertook a college course


Through artwork, Tasha is able to express her emotions that she experiences during her wrongful imprisonment. This can take various forms.

It can be hard to not get lost in Tash’s case and remember that, at the end of the day, a tragedy happened. It is important to remember Little Bryan and to honour his life.

Litrle Bryan’s favourite animal was an elephant which Tasha drew in remembrance.

Tasha has also illustrated artwork that beautifully demonstrates the pain of losing time.

A drawing Tasha made in honour of little Bryan whose favourite animal was an elephant
A drawing Tasha made symbolising the time she has lost in prison

Tasha, during prison, has engaged in many different projects. This includes plays!

Tasha pictured in costume for a play
Tasha taking part in another play

Tasha’s hopes for the future

Tasha has refused to take her conviction as a final say. Every day she manifests her freedom and hopes for the future.

She wants to be able to continue her passion in history by getting a degree and then, becoming a professor. But also, to become an advocate in helping educate those in charge of policy-making about the realities of the criminal justice system.

Not only that, she wants to learn as much as possible! She wants to learn Spanish and learn to play an instrument. She hasn’t yet decided if to start learning the guitar first or the piano.

However, the thing Tasha most hopes for is to be reunited with her children. She was 22 when she was first arrested and her young children were immediately taken away from her. She had a newborn. Now, Tasha is a grandmother and hasn’t yet met her grandchildren.

Here is Tasha describing her envisaging freedom: