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New York prisons will be under lockdown for April 8 total solar eclipse

No visitation at New York State prisons on day of 2024 solar eclipse
No visitation at New York State prisons on day of 2024 solar eclipse 00:28

NEW YORK -- New York state prisons will be on a holiday schedule for the upcoming April 8 total solar eclipse, and visitation will be canceled at nearly two dozen locations.

Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Daniel Martuscello III issued a memo on March 11 announcing all state correctional facilities will operate on a holiday schedule Monday, April 8. That means people who are incarcerated will stay in their housing units except for emergencies from 2 to 5 p.m., which is when the eclipse is expected to pass through parts of the state.

Martuscello said the department will distribute solar eclipse glasses so those within the path of totality can watch from their housing units or work assignments. Places in the path of totality will see the moon fully cover the sun, creating a total solar eclipse.

The DOC said visitation will also be canceled at 23 prisons that fall within the path from southwestern to northeastern New York.

"On April 8, 2024, NYS will be at the center of a total solar eclipse which will impact all DOCCS facilities with some level of darkness during this event. However, 23 facilities fall directly within the path of totality and will experience total darkness, ranging from approximately one and a half minutes to approximately three and a half minutes," the department posted last week on social media. "For facilities in the path of totality, visitation will be canceled and publicized on the Department web page; visitation at all other facilities will end at 2 p.m."

The following prisons are within the path of totality:

  • Adirondack
  • Albion
  • Altona
  • Attica
  • Auburn
  • Bare Hill
  • Cape Vincent
  • Cayuga
  • Clinton
  • Collins
  • Five Points
  • Franklin
  • Gouverneur
  • Goveland
  • Lakeview Shock
  • Marcy
  • Mid-State
  • Mohawk
  • Orleans
  • Riverview
  • Upstate
  • Wende
  • Wyoming

A group of inmates at Woodbourne Correctional Facility filed a lawsuit over the lockdown, arguing it violates their constitutional rights to practice their faiths and take part in a significant religious event. The plaintiffs are six men with various religious backgrounds, including a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist and two practitioners of Santeria, as well as an atheist. 

"A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many," the suit reads, noting that Bible passages describe an eclipse-like event during Jesus' crucifixion, and sacred Islamic works describe a similar event when the Prophet Muhammad's son died.

New York will start to see the full eclipse around 3:17 p.m. in Jamestown before it travels east toward Plattsburgh. New York City is not in the path of totality but expects to see the moon cover about 90 percent of the sun.

State officials urge people who are traveling to the eclipse to prepare for heavy traffic and pack emergency supplies.

"If you are planning on traveling to one of these locations, we cannot stress enough: Leave lots of time. We anticipate that there will be hundreds of thousands of visitors, and there will be many large events planned," The state's Director of Operations Kathryn Garcia said in a briefing last month. "Not only are we expecting all of these visitors, but the timing of the eclipse, obviously, in the late afternoon, overlaps with our everyday rush hour. This is a recipe for severe congestion."

CBS News New York will stream live coverage of the eclipse from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 8 with Chief Meteorologist Lonnie Quinn reporting in Rochester and CBS2 News at 5 Anchor Kristine Johnson in Niagara Falls. 

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