A riot at an English prison was triggered after some prisoners refused to be breathalysed for alcohol, according to Mark Freeman, deputy general secretary of the UK Prison Officers Association.
Specialist officers had to be called in today after about 40 prisoners began a riot and set buildings alight at Ford open prison near Arundel, West Sussex in England, according to the British Ministry of Justice.
At about midnight, the prisoners at began smashing windows, activating fire alarms before setting the building alight.
Staff were forced to retreat from the section and police and specialist prison officers were called in.
Mr Freeman said a “large amount” of alcohol had been found in the prison.
Officers had been chasing inmates around for a couple of days “like a scene out of Benny Hill” attempting to get them to take a breath test, he said.
This reached a flashpoint in the early hours of today, Mr Freeman said.
He added that there were only two prison officers and four support staff on duty last night to manage a prison population of up to 200 inmates.
The issue of alcohol being brought into HMP Ford was highlighted in a Prison Inspectorate report in 2008.
Mr Freeman said: “This has been waiting to happen.”
Five blocks were set alight earlier but another three were set alight at about noon.
The blocks destroyed included a mail room, a gym, a snooker room and a pool room with 10 newly-installed pool tables.
A West Sussex Fire Service appliance went in at 12.15pm, the same time as about 60-strong control and restraint teams.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “We can confirm that around 140 additional prison service staff have arrived at Ford to support the local staff in bringing the prison under full control. This is not an indication that the situation is escalating but is a pre-planned intervention in line with standard practice.
“One of the two wings was back under prison staff control by 10.40am and there is no indication that the situation is escalating on the second wing.
“The fire brigade has been into the prison and the fires have been contained. The fire brigade have now left the prison.”
“The causes of the disturbance and not yet known and will be subject to an investigation.”