According to a new study, inmates in America’s prisons have devalued cigarettes as their preferred form of currency in favor of Ramen noodles.
Michael Gibson-Light, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Arizona School of Sociology, found that the change is the result of prisons scaling back food service to save money, and the general terribleness of the fare. From the press release:
“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,” he said. “Because it is cheap, tasty, and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods.”
“The form of money is not something that changes often or easily, even in the prison underground economy; it takes a major issue or shock to initiate such a change… The fact that this practice has suddenly changed has potentially serious implications”
The study found that the noodles could be purchased in the commissary for 59 cents, but could be traded for more valuable items. For example, an $11 sweatshirt could be had for two packs of ramen and five tailor-made cigarettes worth $2 could be exchanged for one pack. Ramen would also be used to purchase produce stolen from the kitchen.
In fact, Ramen is so coveted that it has reportedly resulted in fights and even has the potential to get inmates killed over unpaid soup debts.