Stuck in the System: Expanding Syringe Access by Reconciling the Penal Code with the Public Health Law

Stuck in the System: Expanding Syringe Access by Reconciling the Penal Code with the Public Health Law documents research findings based on surveys and one-on-one interviews with participants in syringe access programs. Through this research, VOCAL-NY Users Union members sought to explore the impact of the New York State Penal Code and law enforcement practices regarding syringe possession on public health and safety.

Stuck in the SystemThe report was developed by VOCAL-NY’s Users Union’s with research support from the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.

Stuck in the System found that the harassment, arrest and incarceration of people carrying sterile and used syringes discourages participation in syringe access programs, which then increases the risk of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C transmission inlow-income communities. It also increases the risk of needle-stick injuries for law enforcement and fails to reduce drug use or other illegal activities.

The report includes recommendations for aligning our state’s criminal law with existing public health law. By implementing them, the governor and legislature can enhance publicly-funded efforts to reduce injection-related disease transmission and facilitate proper disposal of used syringes.

On July 30th, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill that allows New Yorkers who inject drugs to carry new and used syringes if obtained from a public health program, including syringe exchange programs and pharmacies participating in ESAP.

VOCAL-NY officially released Stuck in the System during a briefing that featured opening remarks by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and a panel discussion with Alma Candelas from the NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute, Camila Gelpi-Acosta from the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI), and Professor Scott Burris from Temple Law School. Staff from the offices of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, Senators Tom Duane and Velmanette Montgomery, and Council Members Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma and Jumaane Williams also attended the briefing.

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Download Executive Summery


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