Ramen noodles may be replacing cigarettes as prison currency

Ramen noodles may be surpassing cigarettes as the most valuable prison currency.

new study from the University of Arizona found that at one prison in the American Sunbelt, packs of the noodles serve a dual purpose.

On the one hand, they're being used as money and exchanged among prisoners for food, clothes and cleaning services, the study says. They're even used as poker chips.

But ramen, in particular, is used because it's considered a tasty, cheap and calorie-dense food –– at a time when prison-food budgets have been slashed.

The study's author, Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona's school of sociology, told The Guardian the prison he studied has cut the number of hot meals it serves per week. On weekends, it used to serve prisoners three meals a day, but now only serves two.

"(Ramen) is easy to get and it’s high in calories," Gibson-Light said. "A lot of (the inmantes), 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 only studied one prison, which he did not identify in an effort to protect the confidentiality of the 60 inmates he interviewed.

But he argued other investigations have also shown that in prisons, ramen might be more valuable than cigarettes.

Gibson-Light says his finding should be seen as a call to examine the quality of care for prisoners.

Read more at The Guardian.

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