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New York inmates sue corrections department to watch solar eclipse amid planned prison lockdowns

Six New York prison inmates are suing over a planned lockdown of their correctional facility so they can view the April 8 solar eclipse.

Several inmates at a New York state prison are suing the corrections department over its decision to lock down correctional facilities during next week’s total solar eclipse, saying it infringes on their right to practice their faith.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by six inmates incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne, located about 110 miles north of New York City

The inmates vary in religious backgrounds and include an atheist, a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, and two practitioners of Santeria.


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“A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many,” the complaint states. “To this day, solar eclipses, like the one on April 8th, are recognized by various religions as special events that warrant gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer.”

The eclipse was last seen in 2017, and won’t occur after April 8 until 2044. 

The plaintiffs — Jeremy Zielinski, Travis Hudson Bruce Moses, Oscar Nunez, Jean Marc Desmarat and David Haigh — said the lockdown violates their constitutional rights to practice their faith by preventing them from taking part in a religiously significant event.

Zielinski, 40, an atheist, is serving time for a first-degree rape conviction but has priors for promoting sexual performance by a child and attempting to disseminate indecent material of a minor, according to the New York incarcerated persons database. 

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Hudson, 50, a Baptist, was convicted for course of sexual conduct against a child. Moses, also 50, practices Santeria and is serving time for second-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a controlled substance. 

Nunez, 49, who also practices Santeria, was convicted of second-degree attempted murder. Desmarat, 53, a Muslim, is incarcerated for second-degree murder and Haigh, 49, a Seventh Day Adventist, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. 

Daniel F. Martuscello III, acting commissioner for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), issued a memo in March stating all prisons would operate on a holiday schedule on April 8, DOCCS told Fox News Digital. Inmates will be returned to their housing units at 2 p.m. on the day of the eclipse. 

Visitations at more than two dozen corrections facilities will be suspended that day, while visits at other facilities will end at 2 p.m. Normal operations will resume at all prisons on April 9. 

A DOCCS spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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