In a series of cases culminating in Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court has limited the extent to which juveniles may be exposed to the harshest criminal sentences. Scholars have addressed discrete components of these recent Court decisions, from their Eighth Amendment methodology to their effect upon state legislation. In this Article, I draw upon that scholarship to make a broader claim: the Miller trilogy has revolutionized juvenile justice. While we have begun to see only the most inchoate signs of this revolution in practice, this Article endeavors to describe what this revolution may look like both in the immediate term and in years to come. Part I demonstrates how the United States went from being the leader in progressive juvenile justice to being an international outlier in the severity of its juvenile sentencing. Part II examines the Miller decision, as well as its immediate predecessor cases, and explains why Miller demands a capacious reading. Part III explores the post-Miller revolution in juvenile justice that is afoot. Specifically, Part III makes the case for two immediate corollaries that flow from Miller, each of which is groundbreaking in its own right: 1) the creation of procedural safeguards for juveniles facing life without parole (“LWOP”) comparable to those recommended for adults facing the death penalty; and 2) the elimination of mandatory minimums for juveniles altogether. Finally, Part III identifies ways in which juvenile justice advocates can leverage the moral leadership of the Miller Court to seek future reform in three key areas: juvenile transfer laws; presumptive sentencing guidelines as they apply to children; and juvenile conditions of confinement.
Cara H. Drinan, The Miller Revolution, 101 IOWA L. REV. 1787 (2016).