The ACLU of Iowa is fighting to create a state where children are educated and supported, not incarcerated.

We’re fighting decades of so-called tough-on-crime policies in Iowa that disproportionately impact youth of color, and Black youth especially. The bottom line is that children do not belong behind bars. Young people should be given opportunities for treatment, rehabilitation, and positive reinforcement through community alternatives to jail or prison.

Recent scientific and sociological research shows that young brains are still developing well into their early twenties. Youth are more prone to impulsive, risky behavior, but also have a unique capacity for change, are more malleable, and can learn from their mistakes. This is why no young person should be condemned to life in prison without parole.

Iowa must reform its laws and policing practices. Criminalizing juveniles in crisis will not solve issues like drug addiction, mental illness, poverty, and underfunded schools. It will only lead to damaged lives, families, communities, and wasted taxpayer dollars.

Learn more about our juvenile justice work.