Which is good, to my mind. As a former smoker (1966 - September 17, 1988) I always advocate against the habit. It's bad for your health, it costs a lot, and it makes you smell like cigarette smoke, when for just a few pennies you could smell like English Leather, or Jontue, depending on your preference.
But as you know, there are no atheists in foxholes, or checking accounts in prisons. Prisoners use other things as currency as they trade for goods and services (!) or pay off football or poker bets. When they could smoke, residents of the Walled-Off Astoria would swap packs of Lucky Strikes or Camels, and now, they are using....ramen noodles.
Yes. Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona School of Sociology, has written a report that says inmates are trading ramen noodles - and not just because more and more prisons don't allow you to smoke.
Gibson-Light says this trend reflects a new sense of "punitive frugality," meaning that prison systems now are looking to save money, and they are feeding the boys up in Cell Block 17 bare-bones meals. If jailbirds want special treats like these dry noodles, they have to get their own. Or have their friends on the outside bring it on Visitors' Day, or Conjugal Visit Weekend.
"Punitive frugality is not a formal prison policy, but rather an observable trend in prison administration practice in institutions throughout the country," Gibson-Light says.
The report goes on to say that stamps and envelopes are also popular forms of prison wampum, although they are not quite as tasty when dropped into boiling water.
Back in the day when I worked 911, we kept our lockers filled with food for emergencies like blizzards, hurricanes, presidential elections and other civil insurrections, those days when we stayed for days on end. I gobbled my share of ramen - in those days, we could get ten packets of these dried wheat noodles and reconstituted broth for a dollar at the BuySumMor.
Then, it was revealed to us that ramen can be a delicacy when prepared at a fine Asian restaurant, where their noodles taste like the Maruchan brand about as much as tuna steak tastes like Chicken Of The Sea.
In his report, Gibson-Light will ask for America to take a thorough look at prison food services, on the grounds that punitive frugality will mean a lower quality of care for prisoners.
America will reply to him that people who wish to eat gourmet chow ought to avoid long prison terms.