Prisoners are getting drunk on hooch, arming themselves with weapons and overrunning prison wings in outbreaks of disorder in jails across England, new reports have revealed.
The reports, disclosed by the Ministry of Justice to Metro.co.uk, state that the unrest was fuelled by the illicitly brewed drink over the last 13 months.
Hooch is made by mixing water, sugar, fruit and bread in a plastic bag, where it ferments into often a "super strength" alcoholic beverage.
The prisons watchdog cited the consequences of prisoners' hooch intake as "disastrous", and the Independent Monitoring Board warned that consumption of hooch increased "dramatically" during the Covid-19 lockdowns when prisoners were bored.
The report for HMP Wayland in Norfolk said: "The effect on prisoners who have drunk such stuff is, obviously, socially disastrous in a closed environment where aggression is always beneath the surface, doubly so when the lockdown circumstances mean that physical distance from such intoxication-fuelled aggression is much more difficult."
A large-scale outbreak of "indiscipline" also took place at Erlestoke, a Category C jail in Wiltshire, when staff were forced to retreat after six inmates became "threatening and aggressive" on June 3, 2021.
The log reads: "Staff withdrew from the wing as the prisoners were armed with makeshift weapons which consisted of sharpened toothbrushes with razor blades attached.
"The prisoners then tampered with the gate locks by blocking them with pencils to deny staff access back onto the wing."
National reinforcements, including the elite Tornado team, were called in before the inmates surrendered.
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The log reads: "At this stage, the motive for the incident was still unknown, however the prisoners were understood to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. There were some minor injuries to the prisoners reported which they had inflicted on each other."
In another hooch-fuelled incident, an inmate at HMP Bristol assaulted a member of staff and took his cellmate hostage, leading to specialist reinforcements being called in.
The report reads: "He stated that he would harm him if staff attempted to enter the cell and he was believed to be under the influence of hooch. National resources were deployed, and the Gold command suite opened."
In another incident on August 31, six intoxicated inmates barricades themselves in a cell for five hours at Swaleside, a Category B prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
The log reads: "They were all under the influence of hooch and stated they had a hostage and weapons. National resources were requested and GOLD was opened. It was later confirmed that this was not a hostage situation.
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"At 23:55hrs intervention was carried out successfully, all prisoners relocated to own cell or cell within the Care and Separation Unit."
A similar situation on December 27, 2020 saw an intoxicated inmate armed with an "improvised stabbing weapon" who dragged a person into a cell at HMP Durham.
The board’s report, published in November 2021, states that difficulty in accessing drugs due to lack of contact in the lockdowns resulted in prisoners turning to the illegal brewing of alcohol.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "We are investing £100 million to bolster prison security, which along with more cell searches, testing and specialist sniffer dogs is helping us crackdown on illicitly brewed alcohol."
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