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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Inmates in New York File Lawsuit for Solar Eclipse Viewing Following State-Mandated Prison Lockdown

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NEW YORK (AP) — A group of inmates in New York have taken ⁤legal action‍ against the state corrections⁤ department, challenging the decision to enforce a lockdown in prisons during ⁣the upcoming total solar eclipse on⁢ Monday.

The lawsuit, which was lodged in a federal court in upstate New York on Friday, contends that the lockdown scheduled for April 8 infringes on the inmates’ constitutional rights to exercise their religious beliefs. The plaintiffs⁣ argue‌ that the lockdown will prevent them from participating in an event of religious significance.

The six plaintiffs, who are currently serving their sentences at the Woodbourne⁣ Correctional Facility in Woodbourne, come from diverse religious backgrounds. The group includes a Baptist,‍ a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, ‌two followers of Santeria, and an atheist.

The complaint states, “A solar eclipse is a rare, ⁢natural‌ phenomenon that holds ‍immense religious⁤ importance for many.” It further highlights that the Bible recounts an eclipse-like event‌ during Jesus’ crucifixion, while sacred Islamic texts describe‌ a similar occurrence at the time of the Prophet Muhammad’s son’s death.

The complaint goes on to emphasize the‌ rarity of the celestial ‍event, which was​ last visible in the U.S. in 2017 and won’t reappear ‍until 2044. It states that such an event “warrants gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer.”

According to the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs, who identifies as an atheist, had obtained special permission last month to watch the eclipse using protective glasses‍ supplied by the state. However, this was before the announcement⁣ of the system-wide lockdown.

Four other plaintiffs subsequently requested permission but were​ turned down by officials who stated that the solar eclipse is not recognized as a holy day in their respective religions, as per the lawsuit. The sixth inmate claims he ⁤never received a reply.

Thomas Mailey, ⁢a spokesperson for the corrections⁢ department, refrained from commenting on the ongoing litigation but assured that all requests for religious accommodations are taken into consideration. He added that requests related to the eclipse viewing are currently being reviewed.

The​ department’s acting commissioner, Daniel Martuscello III, issued a memo ‍on March 11 stating ‍that all state correctional facilities ‌will follow a holiday ⁢schedule next Monday.

As per the memo, inmates will be confined to their⁤ housing units,‌ barring ⁢emergency situations, from 2 p.m. to 5⁣ p.m., which are typically the usual hours‌ for outdoor recreation in⁤ prisons, the‍ lawsuit states.

Visitation will also be suspended at nearly two dozen​ prisons located in the path of totality next Monday, while visitation at other​ correctional facilities​ will conclude at 2 p.m.

Martuscello announced that the department will distribute solar ‍eclipse safety glasses ⁢to staff and inmates at prisons in the path of totality, ‌enabling them to⁢ watch ⁣the eclipse ⁤from their assigned work location or housing units.

Communities in ⁢the western and northern parts of⁣ the state, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Lake Placid, and Plattsburgh,⁤ are expected to have the best view of‌ the total⁢ eclipse.

The total eclipse is anticipated to be visible in these parts of New York around ‍3:15 p.m. and will last⁢ only a few minutes as the​ moon moves between the Earth and the sun, ⁤temporarily obscuring the sun and plunging⁢ the day into darkness.

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Alejandro Mendoza
Alejandro Mendoza
Alejandro Mendoza is a dedicated journalist, known for his in-depth research and commitment to truth. A graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism, he specializes in revealing and reporting on significant local issues.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Good punctuation and grammar, disagree. Inmates should not be prioritized for viewing a solar eclipse during a prison lockdown.

  2. Good punctuation and grammar, agree. All individuals, including inmates, should have the right to view natural phenomena such as a solar eclipse, regardless of their circumstances.

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