Jailed schoolteacher Enoch Burke was expected to be transferred into the main prisoner population in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin on Tuesday after spending his first night in the jail’s committal unit.
Having been tested for Covid-19 on arrival at the prison after he was jailed for contempt of court, his transfer into a cell on one of the prison’s landings was set to take place immediately the test results were available and showed he did not have the virus. He was expected to be placed on a landing with ‘enhanced regime’ prisoners rather than more volatile, or gangland, criminals.
Mr Burke was to be placed on a landing with enhanced prisoners as he has never been in prison before, has no criminal convictions and is in prison due to contempt which is a civil, rather than criminal, matter.
Prisoners on enhanced regimes are those who have demonstrated, through good behaviour and engagement with prison services, that they can be trusted by prison staff. In return for orderly and constructive conduct in prison they can be placed on an enhanced regime, with benefits that can include extra visits from friends and family and a bigger budget to spend in the prison tuck shop.
Mr Burke was taken from the Four Courts to Mountjoy Prison on Monday afternoon and went through the committal process, under which he was photographed and fingerprinted. All prisoners’ measurements are taken and any marks on their bodies are noted
All prisoners are interviewed by staff about their medical, or other, needs, if any. Mr Burke would also have been asked about whether he knew if anyone in the prison who posed a threat to him. As a new committal, Mr Burke would also have met the prison governor briefly on Tuesday morning.
Once committed to the prison proper, prisoners are housed in a one-man cell with his own toilet, shower, television and tea-making facilities. All prisoner cells are unlocked at 8am each day, when they must prepare for the day ahead. They then collect their breakfast and bring it back to their cells to eat as there are no communal dining areas in Irish jails.
After collecting breakfast and returning to their cells, prisoners are locked in until 9.30am, when they are let out for recreation, work or education. They return to cells at noon to eat and stay there until 2.15pm. Recreation or training follows until 4pm when they collect tea and are locked into their cells again until 5.30pm. Then there is 90 minutes of recreation until 7.30pm when they are locked into cells with TV or reading to occupy them.
Mr Burke’s case was due back before the courts on Wednesday morning, which will be an opportunity for him to purge his contempt and secure his release.
However, if he maintains his refusal to do so, his time in prison could continue for months. In one high profile case a group of men from Co Mayo – known as the Rossport Five – spent 94 days in prison in 2005.
They were jailed after they refused to stop breaching a court order restraining the obstruction of work for construction of the Corrib gas pipeline through some of their lands at Rossport. Shell E&P Ireland said in court in September, 2005, that since there was no prospect of further work on pipeline in the short term the injunction against the men was effectively redundant and served no useful purpose. The men were freed and apologised in court.
A number of men who were jailed for contempt of court earlier this year for breaking a court order instructing them to stay away from a property in Co Carlow were freed. One of the men was freed after purging his contempt by agreeing to stay away from the property while the other two men were freed in the following weeks. Though those two men refused to purge their contempt, the judge decided they should be freed as their time in prison had served its purpose.
In the case of Mr Burke, the courts could decide at any time he had spent enough time in prison or he could purge his contempt. However, as was the case with the Rossport Five, developments in the background of his case – such as a conclusion of his employer’s disciplinary process against him – may lead the court to conclude his time in prison should end.
Mr Burke, who was put on paid administrative leave by Wilson’s Hospital School, Co Westmeath, in late August pending a disciplinary process. He has refused to address as trans student as “they”, saying he wanted to be in his classroom but was in court “because I said I would not call a boy a girl”.
The school’s board of management met to consider the position adopted by Mr Burke, commissioned a report and arranged a disciplinary meeting for September 14th.
Mr Burke was notified the report contained serious allegations and on August 22nd it was decided to place him on paid administrative leave pending the disciplinary meeting. However, he continued to attend at the school - sitting in an empty classroom - despite an interim order of August 30th restraining him from attending. When he continued to breach that order he was arrested and brought to court, where he maintained his position and so was jailed.