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Youth probation is the most common form of punishment for youth in the United States criminal legal system, with nearly a quarter of a million youth currently under supervision. Yet the role youth probation conditions play in the incarceration of youth has not been the focus of legal scholarship. Youth probation is a court-imposed intervention where young people remain at home under the supervision of a youth probation officer and are required to adhere to probation conditions, rules, and court-ordered conditions. The orders rely on standardized terms on youth probation condition forms. This is the first scholarly Article to excavate original youth probation condition forms. It relies on data from 17 different urban and rural jurisdictions across the United States, including the five largest, and provides both a descriptive andperspective analysis of the problems with the design and execution of probation conditions.

Based on my analysis of hundreds of youth probation conditions in these different jurisdictions, I argue that standard youth probation conditions are part of a youth probation system that is structurally flawed in its design and execution, and that probation conditions that lack an adolescent framework cause real harm to youth and their families—particularly those who are most vulnerable, especially youth of color. Simultaneously, youth probation systems concentrate power in probation officers, granting them inordinate discretionary power. Although youth probation is viewed as the ideal alternative to detention, I argue that youth probation in its current structure is a driver of incarceration—that should be viewed as part of a carceral state— in need of thoughtful re-imagination: perhaps even abolition.

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