The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with nine public health and criminal justice organizations, submitted a supporting brief in Commonwealth v. Plasse, a case challenging a judge’s decision to sentence someone to incarceration for the sole purpose of providing drug treatment in jail.

When Cayla Plasse violated her probation, a judge imposed a sentence of two years in a house of correction – more than either party recommended. In announcing the sentence, the judge explained that it was “not to punish her, but to make sure she gets through a [drug treatment] program.”

According to the brief, this sentence was unlawful because judges have no authority to sentence a person to a term of incarceration solely for the individual’s own welfare. While judges can recommend treatment, they have no power to require that incarcerated people who need treatment will in fact receive it.

The organizations also argue that it is both unsafe and unjust to sentence someone to more time in order to “help” them recover from a substance use disorder.


Jessie Rossman and Matthew Segal (ACLU of Massachusetts)