Odd News Show

Prisoners Sue After Buzzkill Jail Officials Deny Them Eclipse

New York state puts the kibosh on a captive audience wanting to witness next week’s eclipse, and prisoners are suing for the right to go blind.

By Bram Teitelman · April 3, 2024

Turn around, bad guys: a total eclipse of the... sun ESA/CESAR/Wouter van Reeven/Creative Commons

A solar eclipse occurs significantly less than once in a blue moon. There’s less than a week to go until the first one in seven years, and in the dozen states where it will be visible, it’s being deemed “bigger than the Super Bowl,” which until Taylor Swift dumps Travis Kelce and starts dating the sun, we disagree with.

With New York State in the path of totality (aka between one and a half and three and a half minutes of total darkness), just about everyone there will see it. That is, except for anyone who’s in jail there, thanks to a statewide lockdown of all state prisons. But prisoners are appealing the lockdown - and things get even more confusing!  

Hell Gate reports that in January, Woodbourne Correctional Facility prisoner Jeremy Zielinksi asked to be able to view the eclipse from the prison yard, also asking for a pair of eclipse glasses because you can never have enough drip in prison. Zielinski said that because he was an atheist, his “beliefs are grounded in a devotion to scientific discovery and achievement,” so his religious beliefs, or lack thereof, should grant him a front-row seat. In early March, his request was approved.

Buffalo Bills give eclipse viewing info, probably don't think eclipse is bigger than the Super Bowl.

Six days later, however, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision sent a memo stating that to “ensure the integrity of our facilities,” there would be a three-hour system-wide lockdown for all prisoners. See, with between 90 seconds and three and a half minutes of total darkness, a lot could go down, and if we learned anything from watching Oz all those years ago, it’s that prison isn’t super fun, and it’s even less fun after dark. While even family visits will be canceled for the entire day, somewhat randomly, all prisoners will receive a pair of eclipse glasses to not watch the eclipse that’s happening. 

Once word got out about Zielinksi being granted an audience of one with the sun, other prisoners of varying religious backgrounds decided to get in on the action and sue to be able to watch the eclipse, with Zielinski as the figurehead of the hot legal action. So stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but a Muslim, a Baptist, a Seventh-Day Adventist, two men who practice Santería, and an atheist walk into a courtroom… 

And while the prisoners do have their religious beliefs as a reason, Zielinski tells Hell Gate that the eclipse could serve as a uniting event to bring prisoners together, not unlike jailhouse hooch made from four oranges, some sugar cubes and a sock. “To be able to put aside our differences and just enjoy something together is really, really important,” he commented. “There’s not that many opportunities to do it, especially in a place like this. When you have an opportunity like that, it’s a shame to waste it.” There’s been no ruling yet, so even if they don’t get to see the eclipse, the six plaintiffs are in the dark.