Ramen noodles have become the most valuable "currency" among U.S. prisoners – overtaking the more traditional cigarettes, stamps and envelopes – a study reveals.
The rise in value of instant noodles was deemed a result of "punitive frugality" by Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona who was behind the investigation, published Monday. He blamed budget cuts for bringing about a decline in prison food standards.
"Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles – a cheap, durable food product – as a form of money in the underground economy," he said. "Because it is cheap, tasty, and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods."
According to Gibson-Light, budget cuts in U.S. prisons have meant that greater responsibility has fallen to inmates to find better ways of feeding themselves, rather than this being the duty of prison authorities.
Other goods which serve as alternative forms of currency include other foodstuffs, clothing, hygiene products and even services, such as cleaning another inmate's bunk or doing their laundry. Ramen noodles are also used as gambling chips.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has recorded state spending on corrections at roughly $48.5 billion in 2010, a 5.6 percent decline on the previous year, said the report. Since 1982, state correction spending per capita has not kept up with the number of inmates, it added.