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Detroit police inspect clandestine underground brewery equipment during Prohibition
Detroit police inspect clandestine underground brewery equipment during Prohibition (Collection U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The cat-and-mouse game of inmates making hooch and officers trying to find the prison alcohol has probably gone on for many more years than the 60 I've lived so far.

But just when I think I've seen it all, a fellow comes along and humbles me with an ingenious way of hiding booze.

One dude concocted a “wine suit.” When the guards came into the pod to do a wine-check, he'd don his garbage bag of mash around his neck and wear an enormous robe over it. He'd then try to make his way to a shower stall, so he could pull the curtain closed and wait out the search. He even got away with it once by wearing it while the guards searched his cell. Must've already been drunk.

Then there was the fellow who told the guards shaking down his cell that he did not know the combination of his cellie's lock, while his cellie was conveniently missing.

When the officers went looking for the cellie, he took the lock off, secured the hooch and flushed it down the toilet. He stuffed the bags into a trash can near the cell. They didn't save the mash, but they also didn't get busted.

In a dorm, things can get even trickier. Cameras and snitches are everywhere, and a sloppy ventilation system might ruin the party before it's even started. Hooch stinks.

When the “wine squad” of about 15 officers came to our pod right before Thanksgiving, many of us didn't give it much thought, figuring that the cooks that made the wine had either made preparations for concealment or had already consumed the evidence.

Most of the guards made a beeline for the far wall, where the known cooks reside, and gave that row of bunks a thorough search. I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the officers didn't make an effort to search the rest of our lockers for wine. They soon left.

About 10 minutes later, a blind guy came across a laundry bag with a concealed trash bag of still-fermenting hooch in his cut, or bed area. He yelled, “What the f—- is this?”

Another dude picked up the bag off the floor and said, “Thanks, dude.”

Seconds later, the wine squad stormed back into the pod. Turns out they'd seen the bag during their initial search and had let the scene play out on camera before making their move.

The dude attempted to ditch the hooch, but he was too late. They snatched the bag out of his hand, and he later received a charge. That was a new one for me, seeing someone trying to fob off their wine stash on a blind man.

I was impressed with his ingenuity, but it was also a bush-league move that broke the convict code of owning up to your own shit.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Kevin A. Connell is a former editor of The Compound Chronicle prison publication. He is incarcerated in Virginia.