New York To Lock Down Prisoners For The Total Eclipse

Prisoners held in New York are attempting to sue the state’s corrections department over a decision to lock all inmates indoors during the total solar eclipse on April 8.

Ahead of the eclipse, Jeremy Zielinski, a prisoner held at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, was granted permission to view the eclipse, after he argued that the event was significant to atheists like himself. As well as this, the state would provide him with glasses to safely witness the eclipse.

When others discovered this, they too wanted to witness it. But that hope was quashed after the state corrections department ordered a system-wide lockdown for the three hours surrounding the total solar eclipse. From 2-5 pm, prisoners will remain locked in their housing units, rather than being allowed outdoors for their usual recreation time, with the  New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) citing safety concerns for staff, visitors, and prisoners.

Now, several prisoners – including an atheist, a Muslim, and a Baptist – are suing the department, arguing that the decision violates their constitutionally-protected rights to practice their faith. The complaint, filed on Friday, argues that eclipses are significant religious events, citing Bible passages that describe similar phenomena to an eclipse at the crucifixion of Jesus.

“It will be 20 years before another opportunity like this exists,” Seventh-Day Adventist David Haigh told Hell Gate NYC. “I don’t believe that just because I am incarcerated that I should be denied this opportunity, especially when this eclipse is scheduled to happen during normal outside recreation time.”

“Even for a non-religious person, this eclipse could hold some sort of special meaning,” he added.

Daniel Martuscello III, acting head of DOCCS, told NPR that prisoners and staff would be provided with safety glasses, allowing them to view the event from their housing or work assignments. During the eclipse, however, prisoners will not be allowed out for their usual recreation time, nor allowed visitors after 2 pm.

[H/T: NPR]

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