Instead of tobacco or toilet wine, inmates now trade packets of ramen noodles for goods.
According to a new study released at the American Sociological Association Convention, a decline in the already-poor prison food standards has led many to prize ramen noodles. The study, conducted with around 60 inmates at an unnamed state prison, states that the durable, cheap, high-calorie food now represents a lucrative staple. Participants reported trading the noodle soup packets for clothes and cigarettes, as well as gambling with them and trading them for favors. The increase in ramen black market activity corresponds to a shift to lower quantity and quality food at this particular prison.
In a cost-cutting measure, the prison changed to private firm to manage food preparation. As part of the cuts, inmates only received 2 meals on the weekends. Unfortunately, this reflects a larger U.S. trend. As food regulations are determined by state laws, local policies, and court decisions, no real standard exists for prisons. In addition to cutting the number of meals, providers also resort to unsafe stuffs and filling cheap supplies with extra starches or margarine. Even crappy school lunches can’t compare to some facilities which reportedly spend as low as $0.15 on a meal.
In addition to shining a light on the dire food circumstances of many inmates, the study also reflects the overall shady practices of prisons in America. As state prison populations rose 343 percent from 1980 to 2013, little was done to slow the rising tide other than cost measures. Privately-run, for-profit facilities and shit food are only pieces of a system that incarcerates 22% of the world’s prisoners from a pool of only 4.4% of the world’s population. Think about that the next time you slurp down a saturated-fat-and-sodium-filled bowl of ramen.