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NY Inmates Sue To View Upcoming Eclipse

Inmates in New York are suing the state corrections department over the decision to lock down prisons during next Monday’s total solar eclipse. The suit filed Friday in federal court in upstate New York argues that the April 8 lockdown violates inmates’ constitutional rights to practice their faiths by preventing them from taking part in a religiously significant event, The Associated Press reports. The plaintiffs are six men with varying religious backgrounds who are incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne. “A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many,” the complaint reads, noting that Bible passages describe an eclipse-like phenomenon during Jesus’ crucifixion while sacred Islamic works describe a similar event when the Prophet Muhammad’s son died. The celestial event, which was last visible in the U.S. in 2017 and won’t be seen again until 2044, “warrant gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer,” the complaint reads.


Daniel Martuscello III, the department’s acting commissioner, issued a memo March 11 announcing that all state correctional facilities will operate on a holiday schedule next Monday. That means incarcerated individuals will remain in their housing units except for emergencies from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., which are generally the normal hours for outdoor recreation in prisons, according to the lawsuit. There will also be no visitation at nearly two dozen prisons in the path of totality next Monday. In contrast, visitation at other correctional facilities will end at 2 p.m. Martuscello said the department will distribute solar eclipse safety glasses for staff and incarcerated individuals at prisons in the path of totality so they can view the eclipse from their assigned work location or housing units. The total eclipse is expected to be seen around 3:15 p.m. and last mere minutes as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sun and turning day into night.

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