NY Prisoners Sue Over Solar Eclipse Jail Lockdown

There will be a complete solar eclipse next Monday, and prisoners in New York have sued the state prison administration because of the decision to shut down institutions.

On April 8th, 2024, a complete solar eclipse will traverse North America, going over Canada, the US, and Mexico. When the Moon moves in front of the Sun, it completely covers its light.

Prisoners’ freedom to freely exercise their religion was allegedly violated when authorities forbade them from attending a spiritually important event, according to a lawsuit filed last Friday in a federal court in New York.

Inmates at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, a total of six men hailing from diverse religious backgrounds, are the plaintiffs. An atheist, two Santeria practitioners, a Baptist, a Muslim, and a Seventh-day Adventist are among them.

The U.S. will not witness this celestial phenomenon again until 2044, since it was last seen in 2017.

According to the complaint, one of the plaintiffs, an atheist, had previously obtained special authorization to use state-provided eclipse glasses last month before the issuance of the system-wide shutdown.

Officials rejected four other plaintiffs’ requests for authorization after determining that the solar eclipse does not qualify as a holy day according to their faiths, according to the complaint. The sixth prisoner said he never heard back from anybody.

According to Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for the prison department, the government does not comment on ongoing lawsuits, but they do review requests for religious accommodations. He said that the matters of eclipse watching are now being examined.

The department’s interim commissioner, Daniel Martuscello III, announced the holiday schedule for all state penal institutions in a letter dated March 11.

The complaint states that prisoners are typically allowed outside recreation in jails from 2 to 5 p.m. but that they will be required to stay in their housing units in an emergency.

On Monday, visiting will be suspended when the eclipse will be visible from almost two dozen institutions. At other penal facilities, it will conclude at 2 p.m.

Prison staff and inmates within the path of totality are able to see the eclipse from their allotted housing units or work locations.  Martuscello added that the department would provide solar eclipse safety glasses.  Around 3:15 p.m., certain areas of New York should be able to view the entire eclipse.