In a recent episode of Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," Piper offers Ovaltine to two of her fellow inmates as a sort of bribe, and they're less than impressed. Maybe she should've tried handing over ramen instead.
Michael Gibson-Light interviewed nearly 60 inmates at an unidentified state prison for a study on prison labor, and discovered that ramen is now a more coveted prison currency than even cigarettes, the Guardian reports.
"[Ramen] is easy to get and it's high in calories," said Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona's school of sociology. "A lot of (inmates), they spend their days working and exercising and they don't have enough energy to do these things."
It's not exactly new that ramen is popular with the incarcerated. There's even a cookbook: "Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars," and some of its recipes are from celebs who've done time. (Shia LaBeouf shares his Egg Ramen Salad Sandwich, invented after his brief jail stint for a 2014 outburst during Broadway show "Cabaret.")
But Gibson-Light's study reports that a downgrade from one food-preparation firm to another at the prison he was studying resulted in a reduction of quality that made the instant noodles more valuable. The number of hot meals was also cut, from three a day to two hot meals and one cold lunch, with two meal instead of three on weekends.
"That change was part of a cost-cutting measure," Gibson-Light said, according the Guardian. "That resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the food the inmates were receiving."
At the prison he studied, ramen could be bought for 59 cents at the commissary but was worth much more in trade. One pack of ramen could be bartered for five cigarettes worth $2, two packs for a sweatshirt worth $10.81.