An exerpt from our department newsletter, CCJS News:
California has become a leader in the passage of laws and the implementation of policies that are a harbinger of change in other states and the federal system. While the merits of this are hotly debated, crime and its control are among the most contentious issues in politics and each year there are many issues that capture public and lawmaker attention. The following are certainly among the many important ones being discussed today.
Certainly one of the most significant national discussions relating to criminology and criminal justice has been the issue of gun control in the wake of mass killings in Newtown, Aurora and elsewhere and the recognition that death from weapons, accidental (e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/us/kentucky-boy-5-kills-sister-2.html?_r=0) and otherwise, is significant in American society.
Overall the discussion revealed the powerful role of money, lobbyists and the NRA in lawmakers' decisions to refuse to support any federal legislation. California continues to maintain its position as one of the leading states with controls on access
to high power weaponry and (most recently) appropriations for enforcing existing laws prohibiting certain categories from having weapons, but New York, Connecticut and Colorado have also passed significant legislation in the past few months. Amazingly, with overwhelming U.S. citizen support support for universal background checks on weapons purchasers, the attempt to even debate the issue was stopped in the Senate by mostly Republican opposition. There is no surprise that unfavorable public opinion of Congress is now at the lowest point it has ever been measured by pollsters (see PEW 2013 at http://goo.gl/jnLYy). Perhaps the move for concerned citizens today will be toward citizen initiatives where these are allowed (see, e.g., this discussion).
One of the biggest changes being felt at both the state and local levels is realignment, which is a direct result of the court ordered transfer of inmates from state prisons in California to county jurisdiction. There is a great deal of discussion about, monitoring of and related information about realignment underway in California.
The general issues posed by realignment are provided in the most recent issue of the Western Criminology Review at http://wcr.sonoma.edu/. The latest updating on the monitoring of realignment is available through the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which is directed by SSU's Dan MacAllair, at http://www.cjcj.org/files/Realignment_update_Aug_15_2012.pdf. There is wide-ranging discussion about the topic at city, county and state levels (e.g., see the Public Policy Institute Report at http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_812MLR.pdf; KQED's examination at http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201208220900; and the California Report at http://www.californiareport.org/specialcoverage/prisons/).
The 9th Circuit Court struck down Prop. 8, which limits marriage to a man and a woman. This case has since been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and oral arguments took place in March on it and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. There is considerable speculation about why the court took the California case and also how the high court could rule in June, see, e.g., http://goo.gl/cYItW.