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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.