We’re really a disgraceful group of people:
Ramen noodles are overtaking tobacco as the most popular currency in US prisons, according a new study released on Monday.
A new report by Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology, found the decline in quality and quantity of food available in prisons due to cost-cutting has made ramen noodles
“[Ramen] is easy to get and it’s high in calories,” Gibson-Light said. “A lot of them, they spend their days working and exercising and they don’t have enough energy to do these things. From there it became more a story, why ramen in particular.”
Gibson-Light interviewed close to 60 inmates over the course of a year at one state prison as part of a wider study on prison labor. He did not identify the prison to protect the confidentiality of the inmates.
He found that the instant soup has surpassed tobacco as the most prized currency at the prison. He also analyzed other nationwide investigations that he says found a trend towards using ramen noodles in exchanges.
“One way or another, everything in prison is about money,” one soft-spoken prisoner named Rogers said in the report. “Soup is money in here. It’s sad but true.”
Ramen noodles have long been known to be a popular dish in prisons. Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez, who spent more than a decade incarcerated on a weapons charge, wrote a book on its popularity, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories From Behind Bars.
He was inspired to write the book after a race riot in 2009 led to a standoff between a group of Hispanic and African American inmates. An older inmate quelled the dispute and the two groups resolved the tensions by cooking a feast together, largely with ramen noodles.
The book, released last year, includes several recipes such as Ramen Tamale, using Doritos, canned pork and beans, and ramen. It recommends mixing strawberry jelly with soy sauce to make teriyaki, to go with Cheesy Meat Tacos. The book also includes the favorite ramen recipes of celebrities such as Shia LeBeouf and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.
The study paints a bleak picture of the state of food available at the prison. Gibson-Light found that black-market food became more valuable after control over food preparation switched from one private firm to another in the early 2000s.
“That change was part of a cost-cutting measure,” Gibson-Light said. “With that change that resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the food the inmates were receiving.”
Inmates at the prison Gibson-Light studied went from receiving three hot meals a day to two hot meals and one cold lunch during the week, and only two meals for the whole day on the weekend.
The phenomenon is described by Gibson-Light as “punitive frugality”. Spending on corrections has not kept pace with the number of inmates in prisons since 1982, the report found.
The reasons for this are twofold:
1.) Instead of creating good jobs in cafeterias in prison for both civilians and give the prisoners an opportunity to learn a skill, we’re happier to heap profits on the investor class who have found prisons can be a gold mine with little oversight.
2.) Because most people, when told this, will shrug and basically say “fuck them, they’re prisoners.” These same people will then bitch about repeat offenders who, after being treated like an animal for ten years are released and commit another crime, because we didn’t spend any time or money educating them, dealing with their mental illnesses, teach them a trade, and generally just shit on them for a decade. So now they are worse than what they were when they went in.
I actually talked about this several years ago with someone, and they straight up said “Hell, they eat better than my kids do at school,” and all I could think was “Wow, if you’re ok with that you’re a pretty shitty parent.” That person is no longer in my life.
But that’s who we are as a country. Greatest country in the world, amirite?