Alcohol has been with us since those first pieces of fruit were picked from the trees in the Garden of Eden. And although this is not the "Nectar of the Gods" the ingenuity to brew a batch of homemade hooch has prevailed even behind bars.
An investigation into the cause of a December fire at the Atlanta Federal Prison last year has determined prisoners trying to make illegal alcohol started the blaze.
CBSAtlanta.com obtained the report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after filing an open records request.
The report shows the December 13, 2009 fire at the prison caused $200,000 in damages.
The report classifies the fire as “incendiary."
The investigation shows the blaze started inside a 2nd floor shower cell.
The report states that “the residents of cell block B are known for using clothing containers to make hooch (alcohol)." It also states that “human intervention” tried to ignite combustible materials.
The fire forced the evacuation of inmates in cell block B, but no one was injured.
How prevalent is the making of hooch and pruno in the state and federal prison systems? What is the low-down for getting liquored up while on lock-down? After much research it appears this is a popular drink for inmates intent on breaking the rules and getting intoxicated on concoctions that will either make you ill or get you stupid drunk or both while behind bars.
National Park Service
Alcatraz Prison Picture of a typical cell. Alcatraz is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California.
A former inmate at FCI Morgantown, a minimum security federal prison said that booze is one of many illegal substances available in this prison. Inmates at FCI Morgantown are given a little more access to places to hide the drink as it goes through fermentation stages than in the higher security facilities.
While all the making of any alcohol is illegal many will take the chance of being caught with contraband for a few swigs of home brew, said Tom Hartman of Keyser, WV.
Prison brew has a many names including pruno, hooch, brew, chalk, raisin jack, jumping jack, man's best friend, apple jack and the devil's poison potion. The name pruno supposedly originated from the use of prunes to make an foul tasting unholy wine.
At Alderson Federal Prison made famous by Martha Stewart, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Meg Scott Phipps, Billie Holidays, Sarah Jane Moore, Axis Sally and (Tokyo Rose) Iva Toguri D'Aquino- homemade hooch was mixed and hidden in plastic bottles behind the washers and dryers.
In frequent visits to this prison facility, known as "Camp Cupcake" the making of this intoxicant was often mentioned as well as the preferred blends, means of storage, new and old hiding places and ways of attaining the necessary ingredients.
One woman I spoke with told me that at another prison where she visits inmates in the prison system that she has also been told about the brewing of booze. She said that was one of the first things other inmates teach you.
How to gather up bread, sugar, fruit juices and pieces of fruit including the skins and sneak it back to your cell. And how with very little effort you can set up your own pruno making system. It would take a few days to pocket the items you need to make this liquid that will ferment quickly and can be strained through a sock and then drank till you either get sick or drunk.
Homemade hooch is a valuable commodity in prison and can be traded for drugs, tobacco and commissary credits for other prized and needed items the inmates desire.
It’s nearly impossible for prison guards to stop the smuggling of fruit and breads from the dining areas and the prisoners will go to great lengths to get what they need to make this intoxicant. The making of wine and alcohol is a simple task.
All you need is a little know-how, advice from experienced inmates, some creativity, a little boredom and some stress and add to this a couple pieces of fruit, something that will ferment like bread, find a good place to hide it and time. And there is plenty of all these at any federal or state prison.