Long gone are the days when cigarettes were the most popular form of black market currency in prison. Though they are still popular, due to budget cuts within the prison system they’re taking a backseat to ramen noodles. That’s what was discovered by a recent study involving 60 inmates and staff members at an unnamed facility.
The inmates told Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate from the University of Arizona and lead contributor to the study, that over the years their prison has been cutting back on the quality and quantity of the food in the cafeteria. Where once they used to receive three hot meals a day, now there are no lunches on the weekend and all portions have shrunk.
“Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles – a cheap, durable food product – as a form of money in the underground economy,” Gibson-Light said, “because it is cheap, tasty and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods.” Now a single packet of ramen noodles, which often cost less than 50 cents each, can be traded for at least five cigarettes. They’re also traded for other food items, clothes, and hygiene products.
One inmate told Gibson-Light that “it’s ’cause people are hungry. You can tell how good a man’s doing by how many soups he’s got in his locker. ‘Twenty soups? Oh, that guy’s doing good!'”
Although the study only involved one prison, Gibson-Light says that ramen noodles are becoming the main currency in prisons all over the US. That’s because per capita expenditures in the prison system have not kept pace with the number of inmates, so food portions are being cut everywhere. Referring to other studies, he found that ramen noodles have displaced cigarettes as the main currency in prison, regardless of whether or not tobacco was forbidden, the security level of the prison, or the demographics of the prisoners themselves.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .