Study shows Ramen noodles is most valuable in US prisons
Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate from the University of Arizona School of Sociology, presented a study on prison currencies in the American Sociological Association's annual meeting on 22nd August. The study, which is yet to be published, elucidates how ramen noodles are replacing tobacco as the most valuable prison currency in the US.
What are ramen noodles?
Ramen is a quick-cooking Japanese soup dish consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles served with vegetables in a meat-based or fish-based broth.
Implications of the study
Although Gibson-Light's research is a small case study involving an unnamed prison, and a small sample size of 60 inmates and 7 prison staff members, it raises questions about the conditions in US prisons. A necessary good (food) replacing a luxury good (cigarettes) as prison currency implies that prisoners are not getting sufficient food, leading to the increase in the value of ramen noodles.
The value of ramen noodles in numbers
Gibson-Light, in his study, found that ramen noodles had become so valuable that two packets of noodles, costing $0.59 each, could be exchanged for a jacket worth $10.81.
Details of the study
Gibson-Light found that inmates at the prison he was studying went from receiving three hot meals daily to receiving two hot meals and a cold lunch per day. Furthermore, prisoners were served only two meals per day on weekends. Moreover, the quality of food being provided was of extremely poor quality. As a result, inmates did not get the calories needed to sustain themselves.
The cost of meals in some US prisons
According to a Marshall Project survey, some prisons in the US have cut down the cost of each meal to a meagre $0.15.