Prisoners will not be able to have more than three pieces of fruit a day in New Zealand jails, after a major riot was found to have been caused by inmates who were drunk on home-brewed alcohol.

Officials revealed yesterday that prisoners had been drinking a potent cocktail of fermented fruit and alcohol-based hand sanitiser before the massive brawl at Spring Hill prison in June, which was the worst prison riot in 15 years.

Twenty-three prisoners are facing charges for their actions during the 10-hour riot, in which inmates used sporting equipment as weapons, broke into staff areas and set cell blocks alight.

Chief executive Ray Smith told a select committee that Corrections had removed alcohol-based sanitiser from all prisons, and was planning to put limits on the amount of fruit that inmates could stockpile.


"We're saying you can buy seven pieces of fruit in a week, not an unlimited supply of fruit. So that means that prisoners can have three pieces of fruit a day." Inmates are given two pieces of fruit a day. "That won't solve the issue altogether but it will reduce the risk of people being able to accumulate fruit."

Mr Smith said corrections departments in many countries had similar problems in eliminating alcoholic substances and his department was looking at other initiatives to reduce the risk of prisoners creating their own drinks.

It had considered introducing artificial sweeteners and perforating all plastic bags given to inmates.