Inmates at New York prison will get to watch eclipse after all


Inmates at New York state’s Woodbourne Correctional Facility will get to view Monday’s solar eclipse after all, lawyers for the inmates who sued over the matter said Thursday.

Six inmates at the medium-security men’s prison in Woodbourne in upstate New York sued the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision over not being allowed to view the eclipse.

The inmates argued that denying them the right to see the total eclipse would violate their religious rights, and that they view it as a religious event.

The lawyers in the case, Chris McArdle, Sharon Steinerman, and Madeline Byrd of Alston & Bird, said they the corrections department will allow the inmates to see it.

Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, N.Y., on Jan. 30, 2001. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times via Redux)Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, N.Y., on Jan. 30, 2001. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times via Redux)

Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, N.Y., on Jan. 30, 2001. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times via Redux)

“We are pleased that, in response to our lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, New York State has entered into a binding settlement agreement that will allow our six clients to view the solar eclipse in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” they said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed late last week, was withdrawn after the agreement. In suit also sought that eclipse glasses be provided.

The department’s acting commissioner, Daniel Martuscello III, had issued a memo on March 11 to all facilities stating that they would operate on a holiday schedule on the day of the eclipse — meaning there would be no movement from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m and inmates would remain in their cells, the lawsuit says.

The corrections department said it had begun a review of religious requests to view the eclipse, including from the six inmates at Woodbourne, in advance of the lawsuit being filed.

“We continued our analysis and review during the pendency of the lawsuit,” the department said in a statement. “The Department has agreed to permit the six individuals to view the eclipse.”

The lawsuit cited periods of darkness in religious texts, like during the during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Christianity, and an eclipse when Muhammad’s son died and a call to prayer in Islam.

On Monday, the moon will obscure the sun in the first solar eclipse visible in the United States since the one on Aug. 21, 2017. The next solar eclipse able to be viewed in the U.S. won’t be until 2044.

For those in the path of total eclipse, the sky will become dark.

Woodbourne appears to be out of the path of total eclipse, according to NASA’s “eclipse explorer” website, but the sun will be mostly covered by the moon around 3:25 p.m.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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