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How prisons rely on elite riot squad to keep control

AN ELITE group of specially trained prison officers had to be deployed to jails 580 times last year, figures show.

The National Tactical Response Group tackled disturbances including hostage situations, inmates climbing on roofs and a full-scale riot at Birmingham’s Winson Green jail.

The number of call-outs has risen year by year, the Ministry of Justice figures reveal. In 2010, the NTRG was sent to jails 118 times, but in 2014 there were 223 call-outs, and in 2015 there were more than 340.

The Prison Officers’ Association said reductions in funding had left prisons unable to handle disturbances without calling for back up.

And Labour said the call-outs reflected an ‘epidemic of violence’ in jails, fuelled by ‘counter-productive’ Tory cuts.

Other figures revealed that specialist Tornado teams — which deal with prison riots but are separate from the NTRG — were deployed 19 times last year.

That compares with 15 call-outs in 2015 and seven in 2010.

An MoJ spokesman said: ‘The majority of call-outs are for non-violent incidents when the officers only attend as a precaution or when the situation was already resolved by prison staff.’

Some 2,500 extra prison officers are being recruited and measures have been announced to tackle problems including organised crime in jails and drones being used to smuggle in contraband.