CHLP and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) hosted a ground-breaking roundtable last month, attended by more than 30 New York City prosecutors and senior law enforcement professionals from all five NYC boroughs. Moderated by David LaBahn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the APA, the session focused on up-to-date information regarding the science of infectious disease as it relates to the work of prosecutors and law enforcement in New York City.
Dr. Benjamin Tsoi, the Director of HIV Prevention for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of HIV, and Adrian Guzman, the Bureau of HIV’s Director of Policy and External Affairs, presented on the transmission and treatment of major infectious diseases, including HIV, hepatitis, and COVID, and their prevalence in New York City.
“The success of this roundtable is due to the many prosecutors and law enforcement professionals who came to the table and engaged in the discussions, and frankly shared their experiences, insights, and concerns on the issues presented,” said David LaBahn, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). “It also is a testament to the value of our ongoing collaboration with CHLP, who worked closely with APA staff in planning and pulling this together,” Labahn added.
Creating opportunities for communication and collaboration between community organizations and law enforcement officials has been an important part of CHLP’s decriminalization agenda, and a focus of the Positive Justice Project. Prosecutors and police routinely deal with actual or perceived exposure to infectious diseases such as HIV and COVID, and so it is essential that the most accurate information about these diseases informs their responses.
“Law enforcement and prosecutors have a great deal of discretion when it comes to who is arrested and prosecuted. Unfortunately, we’ve found that they typically operate in a vacuum of information about how air-borne and blood-borne diseases are transmitted, prevented, and treated. This is why it's essential that we engage with them to ensure that their concerns and questions are addressed and that their decisions and overall approaches to HIV and other infectious diseases are informed by the latest science,” said Jada Hicks, Supervising Attorney for Criminal Justice Initiatives at CHLP.
Important measures of the success of this and previous Roundtables are both the level of prosecutor attendance, and the commitment of attendees to continue to meet and talk and engage with this topic.
The National Prosecutors Roundtable on HIV Criminal Laws and Policy is an ongoing collaboration of CHLP and the APA. Our goal is to reduce criminalization by hosting opportunities to learn about the science of infectious disease and to discuss current approaches to disease exposure and related laws, creating respectful spaces for senior law enforcement officials to formulate best practices and policy recommendations in response to infectious disease, and fostering communication between public health agencies and law enforcement that ensure sound public health responses.