HMP Norwich prisoners brewing booze in cells contributes to violence, report warns

Large quantities of hooch discovered
Report says large quantities of hooch were discovered Credit: ITV News Anglia

Prisoners brewing their own illicit alcohol at a jail has become a major problem and is contributing to violence, according to a new report.

In the space of one week in August last year, staff used detection dogs to find 31 litres of the banned booze hidden in bins, buckets, cell cupboards and even under one prisoner's bed.

The cell-fermented alcohol known as hooch could also endanger the health of prisoners who drink it, warns the annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Norwich and the Young Offenders Institution Norwich.

The authors of the report said prison officers had drafted in detection dogs to try and combat the problem.

Barbed wire on top of Norwich Prison walls. Credit: ITV Anglia.

They fear the drink is exacerbating already concerning rates of violence within the jail.

The report also said there was evidence of "many illicit telephones within the prison". These can be used for communication for drug dealing, throw-overs and drones to aid the movement of drugs into the prison.

The IMB said gangs were now an ongoing issue and the fact the prison already had 134 men living in overcrowded conditions, splitting up gangs was difficult.

A spokesperson for the Prison Service said more accommodation was due to be opened later this year which would tackle the issue of overcrowding.

It said: "There was a noticeable increase in prisoners involved with county lines drug trafficking in February 2022, which increased the gang-related issues."

There had been a "dramatic drop in violence" but that "was attributed by the prison to the extremely restricted regime during the period of the Covid outbreak in December 2021-February 2022."

A Prison Service spokesperson said that

Among the other issues raised in the report were:

  • 11 foreign nationals at HMP/YOI Norwich whose sentences have expired. The report described their continued detention as "neither fair nor humane";

  • Concerns the food budget of £2.02 per day per prisoner is no longer sufficient to provide balanced meals due to rising food prices;

  • The prison has been designated as a "cluster site" for self-harm  - it follows three deaths at the prison as well as a number of attempts by prisoners to take their own lives;

  • The IMB also said the prison was understaffed and asked what efforts were being made to improve recruitment and staff retention;

  • A dirty protest on one of the landings had been left uncleaned for some time; this was due to a change in the contractors who cleaned up after these events.

In the report, the monitoring board said: “Prison staff worked hard to keep prisoners safe and to support them as they spent long hours locked in their cells due to Covid restrictions and severe staff shortages.

"Installation of in-cell telephones and a video call service helped maintain family ties, as did the tireless work of the charity Spurgeons.

"The board also recognises the progress made to seek to reduce reoffending through education and training, along with the links to local businesses which can offer opportunities for employment on release, and improvements in resettlement planning.

"However, ongoing staff shortages mean that prisoners are still experiencing reduced regimes, which is a serious concern.”A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Norwich staff have been rightly praised for keeping the prison running safely during the pandemic while driving down violence by more than a third.

“New accommodation will open at HMP Norwich later this year to ease overcrowding and it will benefit from the 5,000 extra staff who will be recruited into the Prison Service by the middle of this decade.”