Vox takes a deeper look into the use of ramen as currency inside America’s prison system. Ramen serves a unique function as money since actual cash isn’t allowed in prisons. In order to serve as currency, an item needs to be durable, portable, and standardized, which ramen is. Ramen is the largest item purchased in prison commissaries and once inmates stockpile ramen, they can inflate/distort prices for other goods and services in the prison. The use of Ramen in prison economies is also mentioned in Brooklyn 99.
With Jake stuck in prison, he needs to find a way to get a cell phone. His prison pal, Caleb, tells him about an opportunity to get a cell phone from another inmate in gen pop (general population), but it’s going to cost Jake. It turns out that since cigarettes have been banned in the prison, various flavors of ramen noodles are now the preferred currency. This new medium of exchange makes it where Jake can finally get a cell phone