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Art Imitating Prison Life

The Conan show has created an ad for a wine called “Pruno.” The wine is made in prison and the the cast of Orange is the New Black participated in this creative spot. The promo gives the illusion of a fancy winery, but the ingredients such as fine bread were really burnt prison toast and the sugar was everyday sugar packets and all was fermented in a prison cell, “oak-lined toilet.”

The audience will laugh at the creativity of this fake commercial, but the making of wine is really part of every day life in some prisons. Inmates have used items purchased from their commissary to make wine in their cells. Sugar, juice, etc. will be mixed and fermented into prison wine. On a personal note, at my Hagerstown prison, the cell floors were heated during the cold winter. Industrious inmates would mix the ingredients together to ferment prison wine on their cell floor. The booze would be sold for commissary items or cash. If an inmate was caught by the correctional officers, he would be transferred immediately to the punishment unit. The punishment hardly deterred the inmates who wanted only to escape from the harsh reality of their prison life. I knew one inmate who was caught several times during his sentence making prison wine.

I described this inmate in the post, the “The Laughing Inmate.” “Alcohol caused all of my troubles.” He told me, “I would make alcohol in my cell using sugar and juices. Part of the floor was heated. I used it to ferment. The shit was great and I sold it to other guys for $8.00.” His laughing started again, “I got so shitfaced that the C.O. saw that I was drunk. I received an additional ninety days to my sentence. I did those days locked down in the hole every day.”

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