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The Value of Ramen Packets in Prison

How food is used to exploit prisoners

This is Eating Out Loud, where Jessica Valenti talks with leading activists about the intersection between politics and food. In this episode, she sits down with reporter (and former prisoner) Shane Bauer about food as a form of currency in prisons.

In America, we tend to think of prisons as places where people are punished, not rehabilitated. We’re told these people being punished are undeserving — of good food, good books, privacy, and in some cases, their humanity.

Shane Bauer is a journalist who went undercover as a guard at a Louisiana prison for four months to bring to light some of the abuses prisoners face, while also uncovering the way that private prisons try to maximize profits at the expense of both prisoners and employees.

I sat down with Bauer — himself a former prisoner — to talk about his time as both a prisoner and a guard, and how the littlest indignities have the biggest impact.

Producers: Pelin Keskin and Mariya Pylayev
Special thanks to Ramen-Ya in New York’s West Village