How To Make Pruno – Prison Booze

The Art of Making Prison Moonshine


Larry Levine

It’s a warm Sunday afternoon, and groups of friends all over the country sit down in sweats for their regular get togethers to smoke a little weed, tell lies about women, play a few hands of poker, watch some NFL or Nascar on cable, and put down shots of booze.

To many it may sound quite innocent, but these aren’t ordinary friends, and Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Captain Morgan are nowhere to be found. These good old drinking buddies are actually inmates serving time for fraud, robbery, slinging drugs, and other nefarious crimes.

Since it’s kind of difficult for people in the slam to hit a liquor store and pick up a bottle like the rest of us, they resort to the next best thing, Pruno, aka Hootch! Good old American made moonshine, black market inmate booze, brewed and bottled at a prison near you, and guaranteed to give you a mind blowing buzz!

Despite the fact making and drinking pruno is against the rules as well as being a high level offense, inmate’s drinking pruno is nearly impossible to stop because they will go to great lengths to get it, and it’s remarkably easy to make. All you need is a little knowledge, something that will ferment, and time. And there’s plenty of all three in any prison.

In a few days, after the brewing process is over, the noxious home-made-brew should have a content of about 14% alcohol that would make any Moonshiner proud.

Back in the old west, bar keeps were famous for spouting name your poison when someone came in for a drink. Well that’s what pruno is and here’s how to make it.

Federal Jailhouse Brew


10 peeled oranges cut into wedges
10 browned, soft apples cut into wedges
1 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 yeast packet
16 oz and 1 cup warm water
1 packet of raisins

Step 1: To start with, when the cops aren’t looking take as many oranges as you can get steal from the prison mess hall, like maybe 6-10. If you can’t smuggle them out yourself, offer to pay off the inmates who work in the kitchen with a batch of finished brew and some’s sure to bite.

Step 2: Combine the apples, raisins and oranges in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag along with an 8 oz cup of water and mash them up taking care to not pop the bag. Once the fruit is beaten into a pulp, add the raw sugar and mix.

Step 3: Next add 16 ounces of warm water to the bag and then seal it. Submerge the sealed bag of MASH in a sink of warm water for 15 minutes, and then move on to Step 4.


The trick at this point is to kick off a chemical reaction that will transform the sugary pulp into high-octane alcoholic brew. To do this you need to add some yeast, a microbe whose sole purpose is to eat sugar and create ethanol.

Most yeast needs to be “proofed,” that is, the yeast needs to be awakened. To do this, fill a small bowl or cup with warm water and add a few teaspoons of sugar. Add the contents of the yeast packet and wait. After a few minutes the mixture should start bubbling—this is the sign of a healthy batch of yeast. Once the mixture is frothy, it’s ready to be added to the MASH. Pour the yeast batch into the bag with MASH and mix it all up.

Now seal the bag!

Step 5: For the next seven to eight days pour warm water (not hot) over the bag then wrap it in a towel and store it in a safe place out of sight from the cops. Never allow the bag to cool, or else the yeast will die and so will the Hootch!

As part of the fermation process the bag will bloat up from the carbon dioxide, so it’s necessary to regularly burp the bag by opening the bag and releasing the carbon dioxide. Repeat this process every day until there’s no longer any bloating.

Make sure to the vent the bag by leaving it open a tiny bit or else the Ziploc bag’s gonna explode into a tropical time-bomb and make a huge mess as well as alert the cops.

Step 6: After about a week, open the bag, strain the nasty fruit goop through a pillow case if you can’t find a strainer, and you’re ready to party….or wind up dead or seriously. CHEERS!

Pruno Associated Botulim Outbreak

In October of 2011, one of the largest pruno-associated botulism outbreaks in history hit the Utah State Prison in Salt Lake City, where several inmates became seriously ill from a bad batch of pruno made with oranges, grapefruit and a stray baked potato. A “moist sock” was employed to filter the precious, C. botulinum-laced hooch.

After the inmates got ill, the Feds came in and a CDC investigation team out of Atlanta broke it all down and figured out how the pruno had become infected.

As it turns out, an enterprising inmate with a taste for Vodka lifted a potato from a meal tray in the dining hall stored it at ambient temperature for several weeks in a sealed plastic jar obtained from the commissary. The inmate peeled the potato using his fingernails, and added it to the plastic bag of brewing hootch a few days before consumption.

The ingredients along with the potato fermented in the bag for several days before being distributed to other inmates in resealable plastic bags. Accoding to the CDC, Toxin was likely produced when the potato was added to a bag containing low-acidity pruno ingredients under warm, anaerobic conditions during pruno fermentation.

Twelve inmates had to be hospitalized at a neuro-critical care unit, with three of them in critical condition requiring mechanical ventilation, running up a half-a-million dollar hospital tab to Utah taxpayers.