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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Alabama jail inmates caught drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizer

 makes one wonder what the jailers were thinking by even allowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers; most correctional facilities prohibit it! (explaining why many venues have introduced alcohol-free hand sanitizer products)

By Lisa Rogers
Times Staff Writer
Six Etowah County jail inmates have been punished after they tried to use an alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer to get drunk.

The sanitizer was broken down and turned into a liquid by using regular table salt, Etowah County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Corrections Scott Hassell said.
Hassell said jailers were made aware of the method that could be used to break down the sanitizer about a year ago, but this is the first time inmates have been caught doing it.

When salt is added to the gel, it breaks down and becomes denatured ethanol, Dale Hyatt, the environmental health and safety officer at the jail, said. He said ethanol evaporates quickly, which is why it is used in the hand sanitizer. The liquid smells much like rubbing alcohol.

Hand sanitizer is not readily available to the inmates, but it is in each section of the jail after last year’s H1N1 flu scare.
Hyatt said sanitizing the jail is done often, with door knobs sanitized with germ killer every two hours. He said the hand sanitizer is in small containers and usually accessible only to the jailers.
The inmates involved in the incident had gotten a small bottle of hand sanitizer and put a small amount of salt in it, he said.
But the alcohol in the hand sanitizer is not the same as in alcoholic drinks.

The ethanol from the sanitizer metabolizes in the liver and the drink gives a sugar rush. The liquid in larger amounts can be toxic, however.

This method only takes a couple of minutes, Dodd said, but it doesn’t produce a drinkable alcohol.
It’s a different process than the old recipe known as “jailhouse julep,” he said.
Inmates will use fresh fruit and mix it with bread in an airtight jar to make alcohol, but the process takes several weeks, Dodd said.
“The mixture of the yeast and sugar turns into alcohol,” he said.
Random cell searches are done every day to prevent the making of julep and other disruptions to the inmates, Hassell said.
Hassell said parents need to be aware that sanitizer is being used in this way.
“If the inmates have learned how to do this, others know, too,” Hassell said. “But the bad thing is that it makes you sick, and it can be toxic.”

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