Officially known as the National Tactical Response Group (NTRG), the elite squad of prison officers was sent to incidents ranging from the full-scale riot at Birmingham’s Winson Green jail to hostage situations.
Their call-outs have been steadily increasing, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures. In 2010, the NTRG was called to jails 118 times, rising to 223 in 2014 and more than 340 in 2015.
The Prison Officers Association (POA) blamed “year-on-year budget cuts” that have reduced staff for the rise.
A union statement said: “The POA are not shocked by the numbers of call-outs as this demonstrates that prisons are in need of national support to maintain security and control.
“However, the figures can be distorted due to some call-outs requiring nationally trained staff.”
In mayhem-strewn May 2016 the NTRG was sent out 67 times to 39 different jails, to deal with inmate disorder, hostage events and “incidents at height” among others.
In the case of two jails, HMP Lindholme in Doncaster and HMP Nottingham, the specialists had to be called in nearly every month that year.
Labour said the data underlined “counterproductive” cuts to the prison service under the Conservative government.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “Deployment of these costly riot squads has soared following the government’s decision to axe thousands of prison officers, which has created an epidemic of violence in our prisons.
“This dangerous situation is likely to go from bad to worse given that a quarter of the prisons that the MoJ itself rates as being of concern have experienced a further cut in prison-officer numbers over the past year.”
An MoJ spokesman said: “We have specially trained teams that provide support to prisons on a range of incidents from offenders climbing onto an internal roof to a large-scale disturbance.
“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.”
The MoJ previously announced the recruitment of 2,500 extra prison officers and security measures to tackle the problem of drones, organised crime in jails, and smuggling of contraband.