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Part of what motivated this piece -- and provided the entire recipe -- was a brilliant poem called "Recipe For Prison Pruno" by Jarvis Jay Masters, a death row inmate in California's San Quentin state prison, currently awaiting appeal.

His story: While an extremely troubled teenager, Masters went on a crime binge and was sent to San Quentin. Back in 1986, just four years into his sentence, he was convicted of conspiring to kill a guard and was sentenced to death row. In the seventeen years since, Masters discovered Buddhism, appears to have rehabilitated himself and began writing. His case is a classic one, cutting at the essential question facing the American prison system: Should U.S. prisons serve as houses of correction, where prisoners are rehabilitated? Or should prisons be punitive places that are so hellacious you never want to go there?

You can buy Masters' book, "Finding Freedom: Writings From Death Row" here.


by Jarvis Jay Masters

Take ten peeled oranges,
Jarvis Masters, it is the judgment and sentence of this court,
one 8 oz. bowl of fruit cocktail,
that the charged information was true,
squeeze the fruit into a small plastic bag,
and the jury having previously, on said date,
and put the juice along with the mash inside,
found that the penalty shall be death,
add 16 oz. of water and seal the bag tightly.
and this Court having, on August 20, 1991,
Place the bag into your sink,
denied your motion for a new trial,
and heat it with hot running water for 15 minutes.
it is the order of this Court that you suffer death,
wrap towels around the bag to keep it warm for fermentation.
said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of San Quentin,
Stash the bag in your cell undisturbed for 48 hours.
at which place you shall be put to death,
When the time has elapsed,
in the manner prescribed by law,
add 40 to 60 cubes of white sugar,
the date later to be fixed by the Court in warrant of execution.
six teaspoons of ketchup,
You are remanded to the custody of the warden of San Quentin,
then heat again for 30 minutes,
to be held by him pending final
secure the bag as done before,
determination of your appeal.
then stash the bag undisturbed again for 72 hours.
It is so ordered.
Reheat daily for 15 minutes.
In witness whereof,
After 72 hours,
I have hereon set my hand as Judge of this Superior Court,
with a spoon, skim off the mash,
and I have caused the seal of this Court to be affixed thereto.
pour the remaining portion into two 18 oz. cups.
May God have mercy on your soul,
Guzzle down quickly!
Mr. Jarvis Masters.
Gulp Gulp Gulp!