Everyone knows cigarettes are great, so what gives here? Have criminals become more concerned for their health, just like the rest of the population? Or maybe the 10 million cooking shows they watch in the television room inspired them to become a very specific type of chef?
The Sad Truth
You know what you can't eat to survive? Cigarettes. Even people with a two-pack-a-day addiction might consider spending what precious little money they have on food if they're starving. And in more and more prisons, that is precisely the case. Cost-cutting has led to lower-quality food, and less of it, leaving inmates desperate for sustenance. That's especially true of those who spend their limitless free time exercising their way to being in prison shape, which is somewhere right above "Olympic athlete" on the scale of how fit a person can be. Some prisons aren't even giving inmates the recommended number of calories to get through a day of binge-watching Netflix, much less one jam-packed with physical activity. Buying packs of ramen, which is cheap, readily available from the commissary, and easy to cook even with limited tools, fills that gap.
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Just don't think about how limited.
That said, while ramen might be filling, it is far from healthy. Inmates are getting huge doses of sodium every time they eat it. Since it's so cheap, it's not unusual for someone in prison to consume three or four packs a day. At that point, you might as well go back to smoking. Still, ramen is so prized that fights have broken out over it, meaning that they have much more imminent concerns than a heart attack which might kill them years down the line. Especially when you take into account that the food you're served in prison is sometimes literally laced with poison.