It should come as no surprise that a calorie-dense meal that’s easy to obtain and even easier to make is basically edible dollar signs to a prisoner. And now it’s a more wanted commodity than even tobacco.
A doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona’s school of sociology dug deep into the subject of prison currency and found that the shift from previous “gold standard” valuables (stamps, envelopes, tobacco) to food magnifies the decline of nutritional quality in prisons. Nobody wants to eat the slop being served behind bars.
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Alvarez told NPR how prisoners improvise to make meals out of instant noodles, saying:
In most cases, if you’re lucky enough to know somebody that works in the kitchen, they can bring you back some raw onions, maybe some chives, some jalapenos, fresh vegetables. And then there’s times when you don’t have much but tap water, a bag of Cheetos — Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at that — and a couple of soups. And you know what? You make a little tamale.
We now live in an age where prisoners are bumming cigarettes off one another, not to smoke, but to buy noodles.