Christa Gannon

Ashoka Fellow
United States, North America
Fellow Since 2009
My work: Preventing juvenile crime and incarceration through legal education, leadership training and 1-to-1 mentoring.


This profile was prepared when Christa Gannon was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Despite various efforts to make the system rehabilitative, the punitive environment of juvenile justice tends to plunge troubled young people further into hopelessness and crime. Christa decided to take a different approach: She listened to the young people caught in this vicious circle, found out what they needed, and provided it. Adapting evidence-based practices in youth development to a previously unconsidered population, juvenile justice youth, she equips this neglected population with a positive, supportive community and the tools they need to imagine and pursue productive futures for themselves. A combination of legal education, mentorship and leadership development helps make the criminal justice system intelligible to these young people and empowers them to shed the “delinquent” label attached to them and change their behavior.

At the same time, Christa gives the system what it needs. By presenting a cost-effective alternative to incarceration, and one that has demonstrated a transformative effect on young people, Christa is showing the juvenile justice system a better option. Leveraging the status that her organization, Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), has attained among judges, district attorneys, public defenders, and probation officers, Christa supports young people in the system to serve as reform consultants to these various players. This approach both aids leadership development of the youth and shows the system actors how listening can help them do their jobs better. By serving both young people and the system that previously has failed them, FLY is helping to build a juvenile justice system that is not only rehabilitative, but transformative.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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