In a series of cases known as the Miller trilogy, the Supreme Court recognized that children are both less culpable and more amenable to rehabilitation than adults, and that those differences must be considered at sentencing. Relying on the principle that kids are different for constitutional purposes, the Court abolished capital punishment for minors and significantly limited the extent to which minors can be subject to life-without-parole ("LWOP') terms. Equally important, the Miller trilogy was predicated on the concept of inherent human dignity, and it recognized the youthful prisoner's need for "hope" and "reconciliation with society." While scholars have grappled with the implementation of these cases for nearly a decade, there has been no comprehensive analysis of what these cases mean for conditions of confinement. That is, if children are different for constitutional purposes at the moment of sentencing, surely, they are still different when transported to a correctional facility and confined by the state. This Paper seeks to close that gap in the literature by making two specific contributions: first, by arguing that the Court's juvenile sentencing decisions impose affirmative obligations upon states regarding youth conditions of confinement; and second, by articulating a standard for measuring when youth conditions of confinement violate the Eighth Amendment. As long as the United States persists in its extreme juvenile sentencing practices, the project of articulating what constitutes cruel and unusual youth confinement remains crucial.
Cara H. Drinan, Cruel and Unusual Youth Confinement, 54 Ariz. St. L.J. 1161 (2022).