Probation is considered an alternative to incarceration in juvenile and adult criminal justice, but for many youth entering the system for the first time, it’s an alternative in name only. Arrested youth, their families, and their advocates say that probation rules end up acting as a circuit leading back to lockup. Probation violations are the leading cause of incarceration for kids, and it’s starting to become clear that the current system is counterproductive. “Many of the young people, when they first engage with the system, would be considered low-risk, and involvement in the system increases their risk. There is a mountain of research that says when the juvenile justice system touches a young person, that their likelihood of dropping out of school skyrockets, their likelihood of later being involved in the adult criminal justice system skyrockets.” The story is the first of a three-part series on Youth Radio.