It’s been all over the news this week. Seems Ramen Noodles have overtaken Tobacco as the ‘currency of choice’ among insiders. And by ‘insiders’, I mean convicts at the Western World’s prisons. There’s a simple reason for this, one which poses larger social questions…
It seems the food is so bad at most prisons in what we like to call the Civilized World, that Ramen Noodles have become more beloved and more valuable as swap currency than the former favorite, Tobacco. Yes, they’re reportedly smuggling noodle bowls into the Joint, now, like they used to sneak in smokes. And inmates are consuming them as though they’re literally addictive.
One Ramen Noodle Cup can
have the same value as a fistful
of cigarettes or dollars in some prisons, today.
Why the bad food?
There are many reasons that prison food – never the best by far – continues to decline, especially in the U.S. where, more and more, long-term custodial incarceration is being turned over to the private, for profit sector. Cut costs where you can. Cut the food quantity and quality. Cut staff. All to boost profits. It’s the way of the world in the 21st century.
And let’s not forget the pervasive cultural mindset that believes criminals should be punished for what they did, or supposedly did. Give them poor accommodations, poor food, lots of verbal abuse and take away their freedom. They’re scum, They don’t deserve anything better. That’s an attitude that’s particularly pervasive among the far-right thinkers.
But the foregoing assertions seem to suggest that the once-dear goal of reclaiming the lost lives of those who’ve run afoul of the law has all but bee\come lost among pressing modern issues. There are adherents on both sides who’ll be glad to debate the question all day. I don’t have time nor the temperament for such pointless mental exercises.
One way or another, at least some of those currently in prison will benefit in more ways than just improved health if they’re given the basic human respect of being served decent food. At the moral and ethical least, they all deserve a healthy, sufficient basic diet.
Your basic Ramen Noodle Bowl is a simple thing to store and transport. It’s lightweight and compact, It can be prepared by simply peeling off the lid and pouring in hot Water. You can eat it with your fingers, if need be, and slurp the broth like a cup of Tea. And, where many of us learned to rely on it as an all-hours belly-filler at college and a quick hot snack anytime, prisoners are finding it a great way to augment their increasingly unappealing diets. And Ramen has soared in value ‘inside’ in the past couple of years.
On the plus side, dietarily, it’s got lots of carbs and that’s good, because prisoners are made to work hard and exercise for a good part of each day. On the minus side, it’s not supposed to a medium of exchange.
A Doctoral Candidate at the University of Arizona’s School Sf Sociology, Michael Gibson-Light, interviewed a dozens of inmates at a state prison and heard the same story: As one anonymous prisoner put it, “One way or another, everything in prison is about money. Soup is money in here. It’s sad but true.”
I feel very strongly that we’ve come to a sad pass when food is equated with wealth and power. Controlling the food is the way despots throughout history have c0ntrolled the masses. Going back to ancient Egypt, where the slaves who toiled for the Pharaoh were paid in food. In the middle ages, when all the land – and food – belonged to the Lord of the manor and he doled it out to the peasants according to his whim. Also in Russia under Stalin’s Communal Farm regime when millions and millions starved. And in Western Europe, where Hitler stole food from conquered people to keep them under this thumb while sending it back to Germany to feast his ‘super race’.
It’s just not right to break the prison population to obeisance by putting the squeeze their food. And it’s not doing any good for the old-school goal of rehabilitating prisoners during their stay inside. It’s just making them more and more suspicious and resentful of mainstream society with each passing day. More likely to re-offend, more likely to, basically, strike back.
To those who are in a position to do something about this impending, explosive situation: Please take heed!
~ Maggie J.