US prisoners really want to experience solar eclipse


Six prisoners in the US have sued authorities to obtain permission to experience this year’s biggest astronomical event – the total solar eclipse on April 8.

The inmates argue in court documents that their right to religious freedom will be violated if New York’s correctional services continue with a planned prison lockdown during the blackout.

“Solar eclipses, such as the one on April 8, are recognized by various religions as a special occasion that permits assembly, celebration, worship and prayer,” reads the application submitted on March 29. “The prisoners have a sincere religious belief that April’s solar eclipse is a religious event.”

New York’s Department of Correctional Services said in a notice earlier that “visiting hours for facilities in the path of total solar eclipse will be cancelled”.

The path of total solar eclipse is the area below which the moon will completely block the sun.

The document does not give reasons for the restrictions in the state – one of eleven states that fall in this lane.

The department said in a statement that prisoners in the state will “return to their housing units before the eclipse”.

However, safety glasses (to protect the eyes when viewing the solar eclipse) will still be issued to the prisoners.

“The solar eclipse is recognized as an event of great religious significance for Christians, including Baptists such as plaintiff Travis Hudson and Seventh-day Adventists such as plaintiff David Haigh,” the court documents by the inmates state. “A total solar eclipse is also of religious importance to atheists like plaintiff Jeremy Zielinski.”

Another claimant argues that the solar eclipse is also of religious importance for Muslims.

The department declined to comment on the court case.

About 32 million people live in the path of total eclipse, with an additional 150 million living within 320 km of the path, Nasa says.

The Perryman Group, a Texas-based research firm, estimates the direct and indirect economic impact of this year’s total blackout at around $6 billion.

This year’s path of total eclipse is about 185 km wide – wider than in 2017. It starts in western Mexico, stretches across cities like Dallas, Indianapolis and Buffalo before ending in eastern Canada.

Many schools will be closed on that day or learners will be sent home early, including Cleveland and Montreal.

  • Click here for more information from Nasa about the solar eclipse
  • Click here for more information on the path of total eclipse