A Handy Guide to Drinking in Prison

How accurate are the pop cultural notions of prison drinking? Jennifer Cacicio reports on just how much modern prisoners are drinking and how they’re doing it.

In Goodfellas, Henry arrives to prison dinner with a big bag of smuggled goods over his shoulder. He pulls out bread, salami, cheese, scotch and the thing Paulie is really waiting for—wine. In Orange is the New Black, Poussey, one of the inmates, is known for having the toilet hooch touch, making hers with a mix of “Kool-Aid, old fruit, ketchup and moldy bread.” In one episode, she gifts a soda bottle full of it to some fellow inmates when they’re mourning the death of a friend; in another, she turns down an offer to monetize her craft.

But just how close are these scenes to reality? The general crackdown on prison security over the past two decades makes one wonder just how much prison drinking is really going on anymore. Are inmates smuggling booze in, or are they fermenting it—perhaps even distilling it—on their own? The answer is yes, all of the above.

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