NY Inmates Desperate to See the Solar Eclipse Are Suing to Witness It

The lawsuit, filed last week in a New York federal court, claims that the upcoming April 8 eclipse has religious significance for the inmates and that they “will be denied their statutory and constitutional rights to practice their religion” they are not able to do it. see the celestial event.

“This historic eclipse holds enormous religious significance for many, and our clients are simply asking the state to respect their constitutional right to observe it,” said Sharon Steinerman, an attorney representing inmates and senior associate at the Alston law firm. & Bird. Business Insider Tuesday.

The inmates who filed the lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision are all incarcerated at Woodbourne Correctional Center in Sullivan County and have diverse religious beliefs, according to the complaint. They include an atheist, a Baptist, a Seventh-day Adventist, and followers of Islam and Santeria.

“The solar eclipse of April 8, 2024 should also be an opportunity for Christians, Sanitarians, Muslims and atheists – to name just a few – to come together as the world goes dark for a few minutes in the middle of the day.” the lawsuit says, noting that the next total solar eclipse is not expected to be visible in the United States until 2044.

The six inmates “each expressed a sincerely held religious belief that the April solar eclipse is a religious event that they must witness and reflect upon in order to uphold their faith,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit argues that the Department of Corrections’ decision to close its prisons statewide on April 8 “unlawfully prohibits” the group of inmates from observing the solar eclipse.

23 state prisons will be in the path of totality during the eclipse

Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, told BI the department does not comment on pending litigation but said the agency considers all requests for religious accommodations.

“Religious requests related to eclipse viewing are currently under review,” Mailey said.

According to a memo issued by the acting commissioner of the Department of Corrections last month, all state prisons will operate on a holiday schedule on the day of the solar eclipse and all inmates will be returned to their housing units starting at 2 p.m. until dinner time.

The total solar eclipse is expected to be observed in parts of New York starting at 3:15 p.m.

Due to an expected influx of people into the area during the eclipse, the Prison Service will suspend visits to the most affected facilities on April 8 and end visits at 2 p.m. at the rest of the prisons.

According to the Department of Corrections, twenty-three state prisons will be in the path of totality during the eclipse and will experience total darkness for approximately three minutes as the moon obscures the sun. Although Woodbourne Correctional Facility is not on this list, an interactive NASA map shows the prison will be affected by the solar eclipse.

Inmates and staff at the 23 prisons listed by the Department of Corrections will receive solar eclipse safety glasses “in case they are able to view the eclipse from their workplace or housing,” Mailey said.

No inmates will be allowed outside to view the solar eclipse, according to Mailey.

The lawsuit says the atheist plaintiff was granted a special request to view the solar eclipse, but that was before the lockdown rules were put in place. Four other plaintiffs had their claims denied, according to the lawsuit.


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