Ramen noodles are overtaking tobacco as the most popular currency in U.S. prisons, says a study reported by The Guardian. Michael Gibson-Light, a University of Arizona doctoral candidate, found the decline in quality and quantity of food available in prisons due to cost-cutting has made ramen noodles a valuable commodity. “[Ramen] is easy to get and it’s high in calories,” Gibson-Light said. He interviewed nearly over the course of a year at a 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. Other reports confirm a trend towards using ramen noodles in exchanges, Gibson-Light said. One inmate was quoted as saying, “One way or another, everything in prison is about money. 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.