Specialist prison officers had to be brought in after rioting inmates "went on the rampage" at Lewes Prison.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that a national response unit had to be brought in to control the prisoners at the East Sussex jail during the incident which lasted from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the Government department said: "Specially trained prison staff have resolved an incident involving a small number of prisoners on one wing at HMP Lewes.
"We are absolutely clear that prisoners who behave in this way will be punished and could spend significantly longer behind bars."
Mike Rolfe, chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said that cells and offices were damaged in the "serious disturbance" and blamed "poor management and severe shortage of staff".
He told the BBC: "There were only four staff on that wing and all four retreated to safety after threats of violence and the prisoners went on the rampage."