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Pruno: The Truth Behind Prison Wine

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

In the world of clandestine prison culture, where creativity meets necessity, an unlikely art form has emerged: pruno, also known as “prison wine.” This homemade alcoholic concoction, brewed from a combination of ingredients readily available behind bars, has become a symbol of ingenuity and resourcefulness among incarcerated individuals. In this blog, we delve into the fascinating world of pruno, exploring its origins, ingredients, brewing process, and cultural significance within prison communities.

What is Pruno?

Pruno is a form of homemade alcoholic beverage, often associated with its production in correctional facilities, particularly prisons. Inmates create pruno using a simple and makeshift fermentation process, making use of ingredients that are accessible within the constraints of prison life

Origins of Pruno

Pruno traces its roots back to the confines of correctional facilities, where inmates have long sought ways to circumvent restrictions on alcohol consumption. With access to limited resources and strict regulations prohibiting alcohol, prisoners have devised creative methods to produce their own homemade brews. The exact origins of pruno are unclear, but its practice is believed to have originated in the United States prison system, where it has proliferated in various forms over the years.

Cultural Significance of Pruno

Beyond its practical purpose as a source of alcohol, pruno holds cultural significance within prison communities, serving as a symbol of resilience, camaraderie, and defiance in the face of adversity. The act of brewing and sharing pruno fosters bonds among inmates, providing a temporary escape from the harsh realities of incarceration. Additionally, pruno is often associated with creativity, resourcefulness, and a sense of ingenuity in making do with limited resources.

How is Pruno Made?

The process of making Pruno is both creative and risky, as inmates have to work with whatever ingredients they can acquire discreetly. Here’s a glimpse into the steps involved:

1. Gathering Ingredients

Inmates collect a variety of fruits, such as oranges, apples, and even raisins, which serve as the primary sources of fermentable sugars. They often hide these ingredients and secretly gather them over time.


  1. Fruit: Pruno typically involves the use of fruits with natural sugars, such as oranges, apples, or fruit cocktail.
  2. Sugar: Additional sugar, often in the form of sugar packets or other sweeteners, is added to provide fermentable sugars.
  3. Water: The mixture requires water for the fermentation process.
  4. Yeast: Inmates may introduce yeast into the mixture to facilitate fermentation. Yeast is naturally present on the skin of fruits, but additional sources may be used.

2. Creating the Mash

The fruits are then mashed or crushed to extract their juices. In some cases, bread or leftover food is also added to the mix to enhance the sugar content.

3. The Fermentation Process

The extracted juice and mashed ingredients are combined in a container, commonly a plastic bag or a makeshift vessel. To kick-start fermentation, inmates rely on wild yeast present in the environment. The mixture is then sealed and hidden away for several days.

Fermentation Process:

  1. Mashing: Inmates mash the fruit to extract juices and break down the pulp.
  2. Combining Ingredients: The mashed fruit, sugar, water, and sometimes additional ingredients like bread, are combined in a container.
  3. Concealment: The mixture is often placed in a concealed container, such as a plastic bag, pillowcase, or makeshift fermentation vessel.
  4. Fermentation: The mixture is left to ferment, allowing naturally occurring or added yeast to convert sugars into alcohol.
  5. Fermentation Time: The fermentation time can vary, but it may take several days for the alcohol content to develop.

Side Effects and Risks of Pruno

While pruno may be ingenuously crafted within prison walls, it carries significant risks and potential side effects due to its unregulated production, unpredictable potency, and the use of makeshift ingredients. Here are some of the risks and side effects associated with pruno consumption:

  1. Alcohol Poisoning: Pruno can vary widely in alcohol content, making it difficult to gauge potency. Consuming pruno with high alcohol content can lead to alcohol poisoning, characterized by symptoms such as vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, and even death.

  2. Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. In a prison environment where access to clean drinking water may be limited, excessive consumption of pruno can exacerbate dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, potentially leading to health complications.

  3. Gastrointestinal Distress: The fermentation process used to produce pruno can introduce harmful bacteria and contaminants into the mixture, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal infections and digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

  4. Liver Damage: Chronic consumption of alcohol, even in small quantities, can place strain on the liver and increase the risk of liver damage and disease over time. The unregulated nature of pruno production may exacerbate this risk, particularly if the brew contains impurities or toxins.

  5. Addiction: Pruno, like any alcoholic beverage, carries the risk of addiction and dependence with long-term or excessive consumption. Individuals who regularly consume pruno may develop tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects, and experience withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from the drink.

  6. Mental Health Effects: Alcohol abuse, including pruno consumption, can have detrimental effects on mental health, exacerbating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders. In a prison environment already characterized by stress, isolation, and limited access to mental health resources, pruno consumption may worsen existing mental health issues.

  7. Legal Consequences: Possession, production, or consumption of pruno within correctional facilities is often prohibited and can result in disciplinary action, extended sentences, or other legal consequences. In addition, inmates caught with pruno may face charges related to the possession of contraband or illegal substances.

  8. Safety Risks: In addition to the health risks associated with pruno consumption, its production and distribution within prisons can create safety hazards for inmates and staff. The clandestine nature of pruno brewing may involve the use of makeshift equipment, unsanitary conditions, and potential conflicts over access to ingredients or finished product.

Overall, pruno consumption poses serious health, legal, and safety risks for individuals within correctional facilities. While it may offer temporary relief or escape from the challenges of prison life, the potential consequences of pruno consumption far outweigh any perceived benefits. As such, individuals are strongly discouraged from producing or consuming pruno and encouraged to seek safer and healthier alternatives for coping with stress and boredom while incarcerated.


The Dangers of Pruno

While Pruno may offer a brief escape from the harsh reality of prison life, it comes with significant risks:

1. Health Hazards

Prison-made alcohol is unregulated and often unsanitary, leading to potential health hazards. The consumption of Pruno can cause various illnesses, including botulism, due to contamination from improper fermentation practices.

2. Legal Implications

Possession and consumption of Pruno are strictly prohibited in correctional facilities. Inmates caught with it may face disciplinary actions, lengthened sentences, or the loss of privileges.

3. Addiction Concerns

As with any form of alcohol, Pruno carries a risk of addiction. Inmates using Pruno as an escape may find themselves in a vicious cycle, leading to further complications.

Pruno represents a fascinating intersection of creativity, necessity, and defiance within the confines of the prison system. While its production and consumption are fraught with risks and legal consequences, pruno serves as a testament to the human capacity for adaptation and survival in the most challenging of circumstances. As we explore the world of pruno, we gain insight into the resilience and ingenuity of individuals navigating life behind bars, where even the simplest pleasures take on profound significance.

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No, Pruno is illegal and strictly forbidden within correctional facilities.

Inmates often resort to making Pruno due to the lack of access to commercial alcohol and the desire to find temporary relief from their challenging circumstances.

Pruno poses significant health risks due to its unregulated production and unsanitary conditions. It is not safe for consumption.

Inmates caught with Pruno may face severe disciplinary measures, prolonged sentences, or other penalties depending on the facility’s rules.

Yes, like any alcoholic beverage, Pruno can lead to addiction, making it a dangerous choice for inmates seeking solace.

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