Break out the sad violins, folks…
This story is actually quite comical.
Ramen noodles, the staple diet of students, hungry drunks and, according to a recent study, the newest form of currency inside state prisons around the United States.
The dried food has taken over from traditional prison favorites such as tobacco, porn and drugs, according to an academic paper presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association that met last week. While the notion of ramen noodles being traded by hardened criminals verges on the comical, the study sheds light on the serious problem of crumbling infrastructure and overcrowding inside state prisons.
“Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles — a cheap, durable food product — as a form of money in the underground economy,” wrote Michael Gibson-Light, a Sociologist and author of the report. “Throughout the nation, we can observe prison cost-cutting and cost-shifting as well as changes in the informal economic practices of inmates.”
You almost feel bad.
More money would solve everything…
And those issues are magnified in places like Alabama where low spending per inmate has left prisons in a state of disrepair. The Yellowhammer state spends around $47 per prisoner per day, which is less than all but two of the 50 states, according to an AL.com analysis of each state’s individual spending. Only Kentucky and Indiana, at $40 and $40.61, respectively, spend less. The national average of keeping a prisoner behind bars is $85.72 per day.
Well, not really.
While the daily cost per prisoner in Alabama has increased in all but two of the past 10 years, the state is under continued pressure from the federal government to drastically improve conditions in its prisons, which are overcrowded and currently illegal. To help remedy the problem, new prison reform legislation was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley earlier this year that will cut the state’s prison population by more than 4,200 people, avert more than $380 million in future costs and provide supervision for 3,000 more people upon release from prison, according to a statement from his office. Even if all goes to plan, the prison population is still expected to remain well above 100 percent capacity.
“This is just one more example of Alabama’s failure to raise the necessary revenue to maintain basic state services, including prisons,” said Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst at Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, a Montgomery-based non-profit organization that advocates for poor people in Alabama. Offering a solution to the problem, Gundlach said that Alabama needs “stable growth taxes for the General Fund, which would require tax reform and the closing of tax loopholes. Second we need to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would pump significant federal dollars into mental health and addiction services, helping to reduce the pipeline into prisons.”
Gov. Bentley recently proposed building four new prisons in order bring the population down from its near 192 percent capacity. The $800 million proposal didn’t make it out of the House of Representatives.
Nah, let them eat Ramen.
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