Federal Courts: Inmates Must be Allowed to Watch Solar Eclipse


(Headline USA) Six inmates who sued New York’s corrections department over its decision to lock down prisons during next Monday’s total solar eclipse will get to watch the celestial event.

Lawyers for the six men incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in upstate New York said Thursday that they’ve reached a settlement with the state that will allow the men to view the solar eclipse “in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

They filed a federal suit last week arguing the April 8 lockdown violates inmates’ constitutional rights to practice their faiths by preventing them from taking part in a religiously significant event. The six men include a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, two practitioners of Santeria, and an atheist.

Thomas Mailey, a spokesperson for the corrections department, said the department has agreed to permit the six individuals to view the eclipse, while plaintiffs have agreed to drop their suit with prejudice.

“The lawsuit came to an appropriate resolution,” he added in an emailed statement.

The department said earlier this week that it takes all requests for religious accommodations under consideration and that those related to viewing the eclipse were currently under review.

Daniel Martuscello III, the department’s acting commissioner, issued a memo last month ordering all incarcerated individuals to remain in their housing units next Monday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., which are generally the normal hours for outdoor recreation in prisons.

He said the department will distribute solar eclipse safety glasses for staff and inmates at prisons in the path of totality so they can view the eclipse from their assigned work location or housing units.

Communities in western and northern reaches of the state are expected to have the best viewing of the moment when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sun.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press


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