Specialist police resolved a riot at a prison after inmates set buildings alight when staff tried to clamp down on contraband alcohol on New Year’s Day, police said on Sunday.
Prison authorities launched an investigation into the day-long rampage involving around 40 inmates which started early Saturday at Ford open prison near Arundel.
Several buildings were burned to the ground and police in body armour and firefighters had to be called in. TV pictures showed flames leaping from several buildings at the 1960s-era prison.
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said the disturbance was “successfully resolved by specially trained prison staff” at 2200 GMT on Saturday.
“A high level investigation will commence immediately to ascertain the causes and circumstances surrounding the incident and those involved may be liable to criminal charges,” he said.
Spurr said staffing levels at the jail were appropriate despite reports that there were only two prison officers and four support staff on duty to manage a population of around 500 prisoners.
Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said 150 prisoners had been moved to closed conditions following the violence.
The Prison Officers’ Association said the riots started after staff tried to breathalyse some of the 200 prisoners amid fears contraband alcohol had been smuggled into the jail.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said no prisoners or staff were believed to have been injured in the riot.
The prison houses inmates with less than two years of their sentence left to serve.
In November, more than 250 inmates at a prison for young offenders had to be moved to other jails after three nights of rioting.