Hooch hunt Prison guards seized almost 400 litres of homemade alcohol in inmates’ cells last year
Searching for and seizing homemade alcohol in Irish prisons is a priority for staff
April 24 2021 12:39 PM
Searching for and seizing homemade alcohol in Irish prisons is a priority for staff, a source within the Irish Prison Service has said.
It follows revelations that nearly 400 litres of homemade alcohol was seized in Irish prisons last year.
According to Freedom of Information figures released to Newstalk, a total of 391.5 litres of ‘hooch’ was discovered in eight jails across the country.
A prison service source suggested that during 2020, with more restrictions in movement of people coming into prisons it had been more difficult for prisoners to gain access to drugs.
“So there probably has been a move towards other types of contraband such as hooch,” he said. “But staff have been very proactive in terms of conducting targeted and random searches. That has contributed to the fact that these figures show that staff are actually retrieving and intercepting contraband so it doesn’t get ingested by the prisoners.
“Hooch, or homemade alcohol, is a feature of prisons and prisoners have always made some variation of it.
“Contraband such as drugs and hooch pose challenges for staff because they can alter people’s behaviour. It’s a priority for us to identify these kinds of contrabands to make sure that they’re not ingested by prisoners because they can lead to random acts of violence against other prisoners and against staff.”
According to Freedom of Information figures released to Newstalk, 49% of last year’s total was seized in Mountjoy Prison – involving 192 litres of homemade alcohol.
That’s followed by 82 litres in Portlaoise, 41 in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin and 35 in Cork jail.
The total figure is almost exactly the same as 2019, when 395.5 litres of hooch was seized.
John Cuffe, a criminologist and former prison officer, says such alcohol has been popular among inmates for many years.
He said: “It’s quite easy to make, and it’s quite easy to store.
“It’s generally made up of fruit – apples, oranges, bananas, sugar. Mixed in with that, white bread is soaked… and then it’s [all] put away to ferment.
“It normally goes in large two-litre bottles. They tend to stick it under beds, near radiators, storage areas where cleaning goods are kept.”
He said it’s the “nearest thing” inmates can get to alcohol in a prison environment, but it’s likely only a “small amount” of people involved in making it.
Figures revealed last month showed there were over 1,200 drug seizures in Irish prisons last year.
In 2020, there were 1,251 drug seizures in 12 jails across the state.
By far the highest amount was in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin, which has over 500 male inmates.
There were 479 drug seizures in Wheatfield last year, with the next highest being the 319 in the men’s section of Mountjoy Prison.
Cloverhill Prison, another jail in the capital, was the third highest at 207.