Can You Drink Alcohol in Prison? What Happens If You Do?

Can You Drink Alcohol in Prison? What Happens If You Do?

There are many questions surrounding what prison life is like and what inmates can and can’t do. It’s fascinating to learn about life behind bars when you haven’t been through it yourself yet. And it’s natural to want to know some of the similarities and differences between prison life and free life.

One of the common subjects people want to know about is drinking. Can you drink alcohol in jail? Are there consequences if you do? Can people ship you alcohol if you’re behind bars?

You may not realize it, but there’s somewhat of an underground alcohol world in prisons that allow inmates to drink, even if it technically isn’t allowed in prison. Let’s dig into the subject of alcohol in prison.

Can You Drink Alcohol in Prison?

The short answer to this is “No,” but you probably already knew that and were maybe hoping for a different response. But the truth is that alcohol is not allowed in prison, mostly because of the things that alcohol can do to a person.

Alcohol doesn’t allow you to think clearly or make good decisions, so you can see why it’s not something that jails would allow. Alcohol mixing in with inmates convicted of various kinds may not be a good blend in most cases.

In fact, some inmates might be in the facility due to alcohol-related crimes, making it even more important that they don’t have access to alcohol.

Jails will not sell alcohol to inmates and inmates can not have alcohol brought to them or shipped to them from outside sources. Prisons will allow correctional officers to take alcohol from prisoners if they’re caught with it, and depending on the facility, there may be other consequences for the inmate.

What are “Prison Alcohol” and Other Jail Made Drinks?

With all that said, just because prisons don’t allow alcohol doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist in facilities. It’s pretty well-known in the prison community that inmates have gotten crafty and have learned to make their own “prison alcohol” if they want it badly enough.

There are several reasons why inmates might seek alcohol so much that they opt to make it on their own. Those reasons might include:

  • Calming withdrawals that they have from alcohol, drugs, and other substances since arriving at the prison
  • Numbing the emotions that they feel from being in prison
  • Feeling more social with other inmates
  • Drinking to pass the time or relieve boredom
  • Making alcohol to sell it to other prisoners for cash

Yes, people in prison sometimes make alcohol to sell, essentially turning it into a mini-business within the prison walls. This, of course, takes a lot of tact to be able to make the alcohol and sell it without ever getting caught by guards.

But it happens, and many are successful with it. Do a quick Google search about drinking in prison, and you may be surprised to see how many stories you find about prison-made alcohol and makeshift alcohol businesses.

Here are a couple of the most common prison drinks:

Prison toilet wine

This isn’t necessarily as gross as it sounds (well, somewhat). Inmates make a prison version of wine by fermenting fruits – often apples, oranges, and grapes – and adding sugar and some form of yeast, like a slice of old bread. To hide the mixture from correctional officers at the facility, an inmate would traditionally stash it in the top of the prison toilet, keeping it away from public view.

Prison wine has come to be known by several names, including pruno, buck, and hooch. But they all mean the same thing: a super intense drink that’s able to make even the biggest drinkers drunk in a few sips. Don’t expect it to taste anything like what’s in a wine bottle from the local liquor store.

Prison moonshine

Prison moonshine is made very similar to toilet wine, usually with a mixture of fruits that get fermented to lead to high alcohol levels and a not-so-lovely flavor. Because of how common it was becoming for inmates to learn how to make wine, moonshine, and other drinks with fruit, many prisons have stopped allowing inmates to buy fruit and sugar.

Still, inmates get creative and learn how to make moonshine with other ingredients they can find. Hand sanitizer and ketchup are two ingredients you might not have thought could make an alcoholic beverage, but when you’re in prison, you take what you can get.

Both prison moonshine and toilet wine are known for emitting some terrible smells that can stink up an entire area of a prison. For that reason, inmates have also found ways to mask the smell, like covering vents that might distribute the smell or using dryer sheets near fans to blow scented air.

Problems with prison drinks

Drinks made in jail might be able to give inmates the quick buzz they’re looking for or a way to drown out their problems. But that certainly doesn’t make them safe.

One of the biggest and scariest concerns about prison alcohol is botulism. Even the CDC talks about the risk of botulism from making pruno. Botulism is caused by a toxin that can be fatal to the body. Even in mild cases, it can cause severe illness or paralysis.

Because prison alcohol doesn’t go through the strict production processes that mainstream alcohol does, there’s always a higher risk for inmates to get botulism, even from a sip or two of a prison drink.

What Happens If You Have Alcohol in Prison?

If you do get caught with alcohol or making alcohol in prison, what are the consequences? The consequences will vary by facility and location, but you can bet that you don’t want any of them to go on your permanent record.

Most prisons take having or making alcohol very seriously. Some may just confiscate your stash and give you a verbal warning not to do it again. But in most cases, you should expect that you could end up with prison-level punishments and marks on your permanent prison record.

Some may face legal consequences, too, especially if they’re involved in bribing correctional officers not to tell their secrets.  Bribing an officer can carry hefty fines and sentences, and you’ll run the risk of getting the officer in major legal trouble, too.

Alcohol in Jail

In conclusion, no, you cannot drink alcohol in prison. Not only is it against the rules of prisons (although some might be a little laxer about them), it also can have some legal ramifications, depending on where you live. Either way, it’s not something to mess with.

On the plus side, not consuming alcohol during your stay can help you detox quickly if you had a substance abuse problem before coming to jail. And, you’ll be able to think with a clear head and prove yourself as a stand-up citizen, which will only give you good marks on your record.