No Child Left Alone: Why Iowa Should
Ban Juvenile Solitary Confinement
Lisa C. Castillo
ABSTRACT: In 2012, the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v.
Alabama that the mandatory imposition of life without parole on a juvenile
offender was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual
Punishment Clause. In its rationale, the Court relied on scientific research,
distinguishing the mental faculties between juveniles and adults and
emphasized juveniles’ ability to change. The Court has used scientific research
in a string of opinions over the last decade to reframe the goal of juvenile
sentencing reform—rehabilitation. In the interest of rehabilitation, states
should prohibit imposing solitary confinement on juvenile inmates. Solitary
confinement has cruel and unusual consequences for juveniles and serves no
penological purpose, making its use a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Thus, the Iowa Legislature should enact legislation prohibiting correctional
facilities from using juvenile solitary confinement, except for the limited
circumstance in which the facility can use no other measure to protect the
juvenile from immediately and substantially harming others. Even then,
confinement must follow strict guidelines to eliminate the risk of misuse and
psychological harm to juveniles. A system where facilities only use juvenile
solitary confinement to prevent an offender from committing immediate,
substantial harm to others is consistent with the goal of rehabilitation, the
trend in the Court’s decisions, a nd the Eighth Amendment.
J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2015; B.A. , The University of
Washington, 2012. Special thank you to Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud and Erin Moody for
helping plant the seeds of this Note and cultivating my interest in juvenile jurisprudence; to
Brianna Long, my Volume 99 Note and Comment Editor, for her tireless encouragement and
guidance throughout the Note-writing process; and to the Volume 100 editors and student
writers for their careful editing skills—most especially Amanda Beggs, Rosie Romano, and Ashley
Brosius. My Note would not have been what it is without their thoughtful contributions. All errors
are my own.