NPR : News

Filed Under:

Botulism From 'Pruno' Hits Arizona Prison

Well, it has happened again. Twice.

Inmates at a maximum security prison in Arizona were stricken with botulism after consuming homemade hooch that's called "pruno" inside the big house.

Eight inmates wound up in the hospital in November after drinking the stuff. In August, four prisoners at the same facility were hospitalized.

The symptoms of botulism include blurred vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing and breathing.

An account in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report doesn't name the prison, but back in November it was identified as the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence.

Pruno is a foul brew made by prisoners with whatever they can find to fuel fermentation. Some fruit, a little water and sugar are usually enough to make alcohol-producing yeast happy in captivity.

Using starchy potatoes is a no-no, though. The tubers can harbor spores from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria that produce a paralyzing toxin.

Both Arizona outbreaks were tied to pruno made with potatoes, according to the MMWR report. That was also the case in another 2012 outbreak at a Utah prison.

Dr. Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, blogged about the November outbreak and the inmates' pruno recipe:

For this batch, they put a baked potato in sealed, warm bottles and fermented it for several days- the perfect environment for producing botulism toxin. This prison brew (called pruno) is foul smelling and doesn't look much better either.

After the August cluster of cases, no special measures were taken to prevent botulism, the MMWR report says. After the second bunch of cases, the prison banned potatoes from the kitchen. There's talk about banning sugar and other sweets from the menu and the prison's store to curb pruno production, the report says.

But eliminating pruno won't be easy. "Pruno is widely used in correctional facilities throughout the country and is an ingrained part of prison culture," as the investigation of the Utah outbreak noted.

Education about the risks of botulism might help a little. But as long as there are incarcerated men with access to food rich in sugar or starch, pruno is likely to be on tap.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How Photos Of Crisis Can Shape The Events They Represent

NPR's Rachel Martin talks with Kira Pollack, director of photography and visual enterprise at Time, about how iconic photos might affect the conversation about the events they have come to represent.
NPR

How Big Egg Tried To Bring Down Little 'Mayo' (And Failed)

Newly released emails from the American Egg Board reveal embarrassing details about its fight against the vegan product Just Mayo. Industry critics say the board's antics may have broken the law.
WAMU 88.5

'Fair Work Week Act' Would Make Maryland Employers Set Work Schedules Earlier

As Labor Day approaches, advocates in Maryland are pushing for a change in how workers receive their schedules.
NPR

How The Architect Of Netflix's Innovative Culture Lost Her Job To The System

Netflix is famous for pioneering a company culture that demands standout results from every employee. One of the architects of this philosophy ended up losing her job to the system she created.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.