Jail Alcohol: Alcoholic Drinks People Make in Jail

prisioners drinking

By the title of this article, you might wonder: isn’t alcoholic drinks illegal inside the prison? Is jail alcohol for real? How did inmates make it? Does it taste any good?

To answer these questions upfront: Yes, drinking alcoholic beverages is illegal in jail, and there is such thing as jail alcohol. But if you want to know more. You don’t have to worry. You have found the right article.

Let’s dig deeper into this and learn about jail alcohol and other alcoholic drinks inmates make.

How Jail Alcohol Concept Started

Jail alcohol is not something people in prison can buy out of a vending machine. You can never find it in any store either. This drink is something that inmates make by themselves, and this idea started centuries ago.

During ancient times in Rome, prisoners would start making jail alcohol by fermenting grape juice that wine. They call it “prison wine” or “pruno.” But jail alcohol history started differently in the US. 

You can trace it back to the Prohibition era, which was a period when alcohol was strictly prohibited and blocked across the country. 

This restriction didn’t stop bootleggers and moonshiners from becoming creative and thinking of ways to quench their thirst for alcoholic drinks. They made homemade drinks that started the homemade alcohol culture. The prohibition even made the demand higher for jail alcohol, which made homemade alcohol thrive even after the restriction was lifted.

Fast forward to current times, making jail alcohol is still widely known as alcoholic drinks restriction is strictly implemented in correctional facilities. Inmates are still able to find different creative and resourceful ways to make fun, alcohol-infused drinks or prison hooch, as they call it.

Ingredients and Process of Making Jail Alcohol

jail alcohol

If you’re wondering how people in prison make jail alcohol, and you’re thinking of making one for yourself, this article got you covered.

To create jail alcohol, find some fruit juice, bread, sugar, and yeast. You would also need a jar or container made of plastic and a rubber glove or balloon to serve as an improvised airlock to your container.

The ingredients and processes might be simple for you to follow, but inside the prison, making jail alcohol comes in varying components depending on what inmates can get a hold of during their meal times. 

For example, fruit juice may be exchanged for canned fruit as a base for alcohol. Bread can be replaced with crackers that will give the mix the needed carbohydrates to help in the fermentation. 

But sugar and yeast are must-haves as sugar fuels yeast in creating the alcohol content while the yeast kicks off the whole fermentation process.

Mix all the ingredients and let them ferment inside the airlock container for five to seven days. But you can wait for much longer for better results. During fermentation, it produces gas while the airlock lets the gas out as it stops oxygen and other elements that can cause impurities from getting into the mix.

A prison hooch can have as low as 2% up to 14% ABV depending on the temperature condition, fermentation time, and ingredients used. Once it achieves the level of alcohol of your liking, you may want to put it in the fridge overnight to let it chill. It will also help any residues to settle at the bottom.

As for how it would smell and taste, don’t expect much. According to those who have tried it, jail alcohol smells like acetone or nail polish remover and tastes like a bile-flavored wine cooler. Yes, it is not enticing at all. But for someone locked in jail, it’ll do.

Types of Alcoholic Drinks Consumed in Prison

jail alcohol

Inmates would turn to making and drinking jail alcohol to cope with stress and boredom inside correctional facilities. Having no access to alcohol can cause frustration to them, so making one on their own creates a sense of control and autonomy. Thus, regardless of prohibitions, people in prison can still find ways to create a variety of alcoholic drinks inside their cells.

1. Beer

Inmates can simply use sugar, yeast, and bread to ferment and get a beer out of it.

2. Distilled Alcohol

This drink is made by boiling fermented fruit juice and collecting the vapors. It is a much more challenging process that takes more time. But since inmates have so much time on their hands, they could definitely create this drink for themselves.

3. Moonshine

One of the popular types of jail alcohol is moonshine. Inmates create this drink by distilling a fermented water, sugar, and fruit blend. Among other jail alcohol, this one is highly potent and can knock down an inmate if consumed in large amounts.

4. Prison Wine

Prison wine is made from fermenting grapes, ancient Roman style.

5. Toilet Wine

This wine is made similarly to prison wine. The only difference is that inmates use a toilet bowl as a container for the fermentation process.

6. Spud Juice

Instead of using fruits, spud juice is made with fermented potatoes.

7. White Whiskey

To make white whiskey, inmates simply ferment sugar and water.


Jail alcohol, even though it is commonly brewed and drunk in prison cells everywhere, is still illegal. Making one may come unnoticeable to guards as ingredients and materials needed to create them can be seen as ordinary items. And so people in prison can always find a way to have jail alcohol.

However, frequent and overconsumption of jail alcohol will cause health risks to drinkers. Not only that drinking alcoholic beverages inside the jail can cause inmates to have prolonged jail time for misbehaving, but it can also make them sick or even die because of the lack of sanitary in making jail alcohol.

Inmates should prioritize their personal development, safety, and well-being and avoid illegal and risky behaviors. In this way, they can begin developing their ability to make responsible choices and healthier coping mechanisms. These can help them better navigate prison life struggles as they prepare themselves to thrive once they reenter society.

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