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How prisoners make moonshine

Drinking problems drag many people to jails or other institutions—it's a weary story of alcohol impairing self-control and morals, over and over again. Most of us can testify how much more prone we are to doing something reckless, out of character, or even criminal when we're on the "liquid courage." The impact on incarceration rates is huge: A 2008 Pew Center report indicated that 5.3 million imprisoned adults in the US—36% of the total at the time—were drinking at the time of their offense. And 2007 Bureau of Justice stats showed that over 20% of victims of violent crimes perceived that their attacker was under the influence of alcohol.

DUIs, for example, are familiar news fodder. But when you live on the inside like I do, you hear plenty of variations: "My dude got in a fight at a bar when he was plastered," one fellow prisoner tells me. "He got his ass beat, so in his alcohol-induced haze he decided to get a gun and go back to the bar. When he got there, the dude who beat him up wasn't there. But the cops were; he got arrested for being a felon in possession of a gun, and is now in the feds with me." But as with many inmates, the human ingenuity that cravings can inspire means his drinking doesn't have to end here: "What we like to do is make moonshine."

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