Tags: ramen | prison | noodles

Ramen Prison Noodles Replace Smokes as Top Inmate Currency

Image: Ramen Prison Noodles Replace Smokes as Top Inmate Currency

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By    |   Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 05:30 AM

Ramen noodles are the top prison black market currency, say sociologists who study such things, replacing cigarettes as the items inmates trade the most.

The research relied on a relatively small sample, but one of the study's co-authors did spend time behind bars in the mid-1990s and from 2006 to 2013.

"Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars," part of what's billed as a comprehensive look at the lives of male inmate laborers imprisoned in U.S. "sunbelt" states, was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The shift to ramen noodles appears to part of what study co-author Gordon-Light called "punitive frugality," demonstrating how cost cutting in prisons has been passed along to prisoners and their support networks.

"Punitive frugality is not a formal prison policy, but rather an observable trend in prison administration practice in institutions throughout the country," said Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University.

"Throughout the nation, we can observe prison cost-cutting and cost-shifting as well as changes in the informal economic practices of inmates. Services are cut back and many costs are passed on to inmates in an effort to respond to calls to remain both tough on crime and cost effective."

Co-author Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez told The Washington Post he saw the emergence of the noodles as a valued prison commodity during his incarceration.

"It's gold. It's literally gold," said Alvarez, adding that he learned early in prison that the noodles were a great way to stretch a meal and prison accounts. "People will actually — and I hate to say this but — they'll kill for it, believe it or not."

"It got to the point where some people would rather have a decent meal than a stogie, especially the way they're feeding us in prison. Times have changed to cut a buck."

The Post said Gibson-Light interviewed 60 male inmates and staff members in an unidentified state-run facility for his study of prisoners' reaction to declining prison services.

Gordon-Light said the move from tobacco products to ramen noodles as the most traded commodity in prison was likely based on changes in prison meal services.

He said inmates at the one prison where he conducted his survey receive three meals a day, but in the early 2000s the second meal was changed from a hot meal to a cold sandwich and a small bag of chips. On top of that, weekend lunches were eliminated altogether and portion sizes of all meals were reduced.

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Ramen noodles are the top prison black market currency, say sociologists who study such things, replacing cigarettes as the items inmates trade the most.
ramen, prison, noodles
414
2016-30-24
Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 05:30 AM
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