More than 2,000 litres of homemade alcohol has been seized from prisoners over the past two years.
The potent homebrew or ‘hooch’ is made from water, sugar, fruit, and bread, which is mixed in plastic bottles and left hidden in cells until it ferments.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Acts reveal 2,046 litres of hooch was confiscated from prisoners in the State’s 14 detention centres in 2013 and 2014.
The largest quantity seized last year — 321 litres — was confiscated at the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise. The medium-security jail has an operational capacity of 870 prisoners.
A further 162 litres was seized during 2014 at Cork Prison, which has a capacity of 210, while 105 litres was seized at Mountjoy Prison.
A total of 105 litres was found in the possession of inmates at the State’s high-security prison in Portlaoise.
No hooch was seized at the Dóchas Centre in Dublin last year, where female offenders are jailed, while 20 litres was confiscated from inmates at St Patrick’s Institution, which houses 17-year-old convicts.
A total of 889 litres was seized from prisoners in all institutes last year, a decrease from the 1,157.2 litres that was seized in 2013.
In the UK, some prisons have banned inmates from buying large quantities of fruit, especially apples and pears, in order to prevent its use in the brewing process.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said extensive efforts had been made to reduce the flow of contraband in jails in recent years.
“A range of enhanced measures including the establishment of a dedicated group of staff [the operational support group] was introduced in May 2008 with the aim of reducing the supply of contraband into our prisons,” said the spokesman.
“This also included the introduction of security screening areas in all closed prisons, the introduction of a canine unit, increased searching of cells and their occupants, and the installation of nets over exercise yards.”
Hooch, or ‘prison wine’, can be made from a variety of ingredients, including apples, and potatoes. Bread provides yeast to play a role in the fermentation process. A sock can be used to separate the pulp from the liquid and the finished product can be extremely potent, depending on the amount of sugar used and the length of time it is left to ferment.
Prison brewing has been known to cause outbreaks of botulism, a disease caused by a bacteria produced in the fermentation process. Its symptoms can include muscle weakness, paralysis, and blindness.
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