Instant Ramen Is Quickly Becoming The Most Popular Prison Currency


Cigarettes were once considered the gold standard of prisons, holding the key to the supply and demand of the prison economic system. But it seems the newest form of currency on the block is ramen and instant soup.

While prisoners may not have access to Michelin star ramen, instant ramen has become a hot commodity for the penal system. But the high value of instant soups is more of a reflection of the deteriorating state of the prison food system. As reported by The Guardian, a report from the University of Arizona claims that cost-cutting measures, plus the quality and quantity of food in prisons, are key reasons as to why ramen is a heavily valuable product:

“[Ramen] is easy to get and it’s high in calories. 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.”

Michael Gibson-Light, who authored the report, spoke to nearly 60 inmates over a yearlong period to get their take on why ramen is so popular. One prisoner explained, “one way or another, everything in prison is about money,” and ramen has become a source of currency for those that are locked up. To put its value into perspective, Gibson-Light found a $0.59 pack of ramen could be traded for a $10.81 sweatshirt or five cigarettes and, according to The Guardian, ramen has now surpassed tobacco in value. That’s because cost-cutting measures have made it impossible for inmates to get the calories that they need. And considering that Gibson-Light also notes that food quality has severely decreased, it’s no wonder that the incarcerated are turning to ramen to keep their strength up.

“[Money] doesn’t change unless there’s some drastic change to the value in people using it,” Gibson Light said, The Guardian reports. “The shift from tobacco to ramen highlights how dire the nutritional standards at prisons has become.”

(Via The Guardian)