Total Solar Eclipse 2024: Inmates file lawsuit over New York’s prison lockdown on April 8

Millions across the North American continent will witness a rare total solar eclipse on April 8. In contrast to the last such celestial event in 2017, this year’s 115-mile-wide path of totality falls on parts of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. As Americans across 13 states in the country will be able to witness the sky go completely dark in the middle of the day, the 2024 eclipse is not one to miss. The next time a total solar eclipse will occur in the US, is in 2044.

Inmates in New York seek right to witness April’s Total Solar Eclipse

New York prisoners file lawsuit to watch April’s total solar eclipse

Given the rarity of this phenomenon, inmates in New York have filed a lawsuit demanding a right to watch the eclipse. The lawsuit comes after the state corrections department declared in March that “there will be no incarcerated movement in facilities from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and incarcerated individuals will remain in housing units except for emergency situations.”

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The lawsuit was filed on Friday by six prisoners of different religious backgrounds at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility. The plaintiffs argue that the prison lockdown on April 8 violates their constitutional rights to practice their faith by preventing them from participating in a religiously significant event. “A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many,” the lawsuit says, per The Guardian.

It adds that the rare event, which was last seen in 2017 and won’t be seen next until 2044, is “a religious event that they must witness and reflect on to observe their faiths” and “warrant[s] gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer.” The plaintiffs include a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist and two practitioners of Santería, as well as an atheist, who received special permission to watch the eclipse using protective glasses before the lockdown was imposed.

The lawsuit adds that the rest of the plaintiffs also sought permission to witness the rare event on religious grounds but were either denied on grounds of solar eclipse not being listed as a holy event or never received a response. Inmates also argued that the lockdown hours are usually the time for outdoor recreation. The lawsuit further highlights that in 2017, no such lockdown was imposed during the eclipse.

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