The Most Popular Prison Currency Is Tastier Than You Might Think

Soup is the new cigarette

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According to a new study, a much tastier item has replaced tobacco as the most popular currency among American inmates. But the reason is far from palatable. Trading well above its real-world value, ramen is now the most coveted item in prisons as a result of mediocre food quality in privately run institutions, The Guardian reports.

Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology, wrote the report released on Monday, detailing how prison currencies can reveal the inhumane conditions happening within them. In the report, Gibson-Light explained that ramen is “easy to get” and “high in calories,” meaning for those inmates who spend their days working or exercising, this is the most appetizing option when the free food provided doesn’t meet basic nutritional needs.

The fact that inmates are turning to ramen as the only viable source of sustenance should be alarming no matter which way you look at it. After interviewing nearly 60 inmates and analyzing nationwide surveys, Gibson-Light found that food became a valuable black market commodity after state prisons handed off food preparation to private firms in the 2000s. Gibson-Light describes this change in his report, writing, “That change was part of a cost-cutting measure. With that change that resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the food the inmates were receiving.”

And as Chandra Bozelko pointed out in a separate article for The Guardian, prison food might meet standard caloric requirements, but the calories are packed into small portions that don’t leave inmates feeling satiated. And that seems to be the best-case scenario. At the far end of the spectrum, a lawsuit exposed Rikers Island for serving food contaminated with rat poison.

In that sense, ramen replacing cigarettes as the new standard currency is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problem of food in prisons. Hopefully, the US Justice Department’s decision to phase out private prisons will improve the living conditions for inmates, because whether they broke the law or not, prisoners are humans above all.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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