Prison Wine: The Devil’s Nectar

By Mike Devlin on Wednesday, July 31, 2013
wine
“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” —Nelson Mandela

In a Nutshell

Although banned from prisons, inmates have found ways to make their own alcohol. Called “pruno,” the substance is made from smuggled odds and ends from the cafeteria. Its taste has been described as almost unbearably vile.

The Whole Bushel

Few places on earth are more aptly suited to cocktails than prison. Unfortunately, alcohol is banned in almost every penitentiary in the world. Of course, that doesn’t stop the incarcerated from making an illicit prison wine.

There are dozens of recipes to make pruno, each more revolting than the last. Typically it is concocted from fruit acquired from the cafeteria, mixed with sugar, water, and bread (to provide the yeast needed to begin fermentation). In some facilities where the consumption of pruno has proven a real issue, wardens have banned fresh fruit altogether. However, inmates in search of a buzz are nothing if not resourceful and can use other ingredients including, but not limited to, orange juice, ketchup, yams, raisins, fruit cocktail, cake frosting, jelly, potatoes, and even sauerkraut.

Pruno is most easily made in a simple plastic bag. The fruit and water are mashed into a paste and then slowly fed a diet of sugar over the course of a week. The mixture then needs to be submerged daily in hot water to hasten the fermentation process. It takes about a week to reach the right potency. While this might not seem like the most elaborate recipe to prepare, there are pitfalls. First, the bag needs to be carefully monitored. The gases of the fermentation process will cause it to explode if left unattended for too long, covering your cell in an acrid paste. Second, the process needs to be hidden from the guards. An anecdote related in an issue of the San Francisco Chronicle indicates that guards finding pruno might not confiscate it, but instead urinate in it for their own sinister amusement.

The alcohol levels of the finished product vary, but are generally between those of beer and wine and tastes mostly like rotten fruit. This rudimentary distillation is not without its risks. In 2004, four inmates from a prison in California were stricken with botulism from a pruno made with “unpeeled potatoes smuggled from the kitchen, apples from lunches, one old peach, jelly, and ketchup,” which they described as “smelling like baby poop.” In 2005, another California prisoner in a different institution also developed botulism from drinking pruno and had to be kept alive on a respirator.

Show Me The Proof

Jailhouse Hooch
Make Your Own Pruno And May God Have Mercy On Your Soul
Botulism from Drinking Pruno

  • inconspicuous detective

    good. if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. suffer if you’re forced to.

  • rhijulbec

    Necessity is the mother of invention and to those who need booze this is the invention. Icky!

  • rick

    whoa ‘banned in almost every prison’??!?! no, its banned in EVERY prison. in the world. (do you not know what a prison is?)

    • Brp Goyo

      google iwahig prison farm

  • Liege_Lord

    Good Ol’ toliet wine. Reminds me of the movie “Lets go to Prision”.

  • TheUnknownTruth

    Just make marijuana joints purchasable in the commissary and all this pruno and prison violence can be eliminated in one fell swoop. Find me a domestic Violence case were the husband beat his wife because he smoked too much pot and got violent. No its always alcohol related but a prison with 300 violent men all high off weed most will be fighting the munchies and all will be wanting to work to support their habit.

  • Ihsan YoungsterPro

    It’s ridiculous for you to assume we think that this is a “rule”, it’s
    just a miscarriage of justice that seems to happen ENTIRELY too often. terima kasih dari newbie seperti saya 🙂


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