Torrico to chair new prison-reform committee

Hot on the heels of smack-talking a campaign rival’s self-funding, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, today announced a new role in which he could either boost or undermine his campaign for state Attorney General: He’ll chair the new Assembly Select Committee on Prison and Rehabilitation Reform.

In a state now renowned for dysfunctional government, the prison and rehabilitation system takes the cake: rampant overcrowding, copious contraband, heavy gang influence, runaway recidivism, a health-care system so bad it’s been placed in federal receivership, etc.

“We can no longer risk ignoring California’s prison crisis. For the first time in the state’s history, California spent more money on prisons than higher education last fiscal year. California needs to stop ignoring and start reforming our prison system,” Torrico said in his news release. “This Governor will give his State of the State address tomorrow. But the time has come to state the obvious – we can’t fix what’s wrong with California until we fix our broken and costly prison system.”

If Torrico’s committee can successfully start mitigating one or more of these problems, it’s an instant, firm campaign platform plank; if not, inaction or failure could provide fodder for his campaign rivals’ attacks. Of course, June’s Democratic primary is just five months away, so perhaps there’s enough time for him to tout his role as chairman and not enough time for anyone to seriously expect him to accomplish much…

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    A major time-waster. Which large state is “proud” of its penal system? Sorry goody-goodies, the constituency for prison improvement ain’t very big. Assemble a panel of reformed ex-cons, guards and a warden or two, and you will get recommendations faster.

  • kenny gonzales

    Mr Torrico I have been a Correctional Officer for 23 yrs.I would like to assist you with task on prison reform.Im not a politican,or an out of touch CDCR admin person.I know my way in and around the CDCR system.I am confident I can help you.

  • prisonpal88

    Finally there is someone who has a brain trying to fix this mess. do not forget sentence reform across the board, I have spent a great amount of time reading up on this mess, and one area of concern for me is the so called classification of “violent offenders”.

    We have people sitting for 6+ years because the crime was classified as “violent” even though there was no violence involved. I think that’s ridiculous. while people with actual violence ie: assault and battery, spousal abuse, battery get an anger management class.

    The 3 strikes law, a waste of time and tax payers money, robbery in the second degree a strike and multiple years in prison? its a theft crime and should not have been raised to the level of murderers and rapists. if the DA’s are pleading crimes down then hold them accountable. but keeping people incarcerated for stealing with no violence is retarded at best.

    I would love to see you succeed in your endeavors, but how do think your going to get around the fear spewing lobbyist? anything I can do to help let me know, I’m just a mom with no ivy league education but even I manage money better then Ca and the CDCR.

    One other thing drug offenders, we keep concentration on them as there seems to be this ill concieved notion, they do not commit violence, people need to understand how many things they are offered before they ever see the inside of a prison. we need to get people with low level crimes with strikes out that’s our over crowding issue.

  • JK

    If you think the prison system is overcrowded now, wait until you start jailing people for not having health insurance. Given that California has approximately 5 million people that fall into this new federal law, you can expect a significant uptick of more felons.

  • prisonpal88


  • LB

    Good luck with the reform, rehabilitation, or whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately for you, history repeats itself, and rehabilitation is a tried and failed methodology for dealing with prisoners. I am hopeful that you are in this for the long haul, and not just another fly-by-night advocate that is looking for another resume builder.

  • Leland

    Given the FACTS that Torrico has accepted in excess of $15K in donations from the CCPOA (guards’ union) do we expect Torrico to change ANYTHING? The guards are well employed because we have too many prisoners, working overtime, getting large pensions when they retire and seem UNINTERESTED in helping any inmate rehabilitate his life. The CUSTODY issues the guards are hyped about constantly get in the way of the MENTAL HEALTH and MEDICAL DEPARTMENT staff. We can’t do our work because of the guards.