Periodic get-tough-on-crime efforts have produced laws that clog jails without actually getting tough on crime. An example is a state law suspending the driver's license of anyone convicted of a drug offense.

Passed in 1989, the law was designed to crack down on drug dealers cruising for customers. However, state Attorney General Martha Healey, testifying before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation, said her office has seen no evidence that license suspensions on drug offenses unrelated to driving deter drug crimes. There is evidence, continued the AG, that these suspensions are preventing people from holding jobs, going to school or picking up their children from school.

The Catch-22 is that the law prevents many drug offenders from getting to their drug rehabilitation sessions so they can kick their habit for good. If the object of prison is to reintegrate criminals into society, then this misguided drug law is hindering that goal, keeping low-level offenders in jail at taxpayer expense and preventing those who made mistakes from moving past them and becoming productive contributors again.

Happily, the Legislature is considering repealing the law, and the bill has been endorsed by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. The law does real harm and no evident good, and should be taken off the books this session.