No Child Left Alone: Why Iowa Should Ban Juvenile Solitary Confinement

26 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2014 Last revised: 23 Feb 2015

See all articles by Lisa Castillo

Lisa Castillo

University of Iowa, College of Law, Students

Date Written: February 21, 2015


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, and the Eighth Amendment.

Keywords: juvenile justice, juvenile jurisprudence, juvenile, sentencing, Eighth Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment, rehabilitation, solitary confinement, Iowa, Miller v. Alabama, Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, physiological differences

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Castillo, Lisa, No Child Left Alone: Why Iowa Should Ban Juvenile Solitary Confinement (February 21, 2015). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 3, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Lisa Castillo (Contact Author)

University of Iowa, College of Law, Students ( email )

Iowa City, IA
United States

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