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The rights of incarcerated people have been historically overlooked and ignored in the United States, and this must change. It is critical for incarcerated people to be able to access and protect their rights because they are often exploited for free labor and receive little resources with which they can maintain their rights, which is part of what led the United Nations to issue a report finding that the United States has the “worst version of a racist criminal legal system.” Lawsuits and lobbying are two major means of expanding and protecting the rights of incarcerated people. In New York, incarcerated people recently had to file a lawsuit to fight for their right to simply witness a celestial event. Specifically, six incarcerated people sued for the right to witness the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse when they were informed they would not be allowed to. They argued that the solar eclipse holds religious significance to them and they believe witnessing such a rare celestial event could bring forth an incredibly important reflective period within themselves. For example, one of the plaintiffs pointed out that Christian congregations normally gather to observe together and celebrate “the handiwork of God” during solar eclipses. Fortunately, they reached a settlement before the eclipse occurred and were allowed to view it.

This post was originally published on the Cardozo Journal of Equal Rights and Social Justice website on April 19, 2024. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.

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