If you ask a teenager in the United States to show you one of their favorite memories, they will likely show you a picture or video on their cell phone. This is because Americans, especially teenagers, love cell phones. Ninety-seven percent of all Americans own a cell phone according to a continuously updated survey by the Pew Research Center. For teenagers aged thirteen to seventeen, the number is roughly 95%. For eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds, the number grows to 100%. On average, eight to twelve-year-old’s use roughly five and a half hours of screen media per day, in comparison to thirteen to eighteen-year-olds, who use about eight and a half. The primary ways teenagers use their phones are to pass the time, connect with other people, and learn new things. With this data in mind, imagine an entire group of youth who are completely banned from using cell phones and spend large periods of their youth unable to permanently document some of their memories and connect with many of their peers. That is the experience of incarcerated and detained youth.

This Note specifically addresses ways to change this harmful prohibition. Part I defines contraband and the Washington laws affecting incarcerated and detained youth. Part II discusses Washington’s youth confinement structure and data regarding disparities in incarceration. Part III proposes cell phones be removed from the definition of contraband in juvenile community facilities. Part IV addresses potential concerns with this solution and suggestions to mitigate the risks associated with the proposed change. Finally, Part V includes the most updated information regarding a new cell phone policy being implemented in one juvenile community facility to provide cell phone access to youth.

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