We might be dealing with low inflation and even a falling cost of living, but not everyone in the United States is dealing with the same economic woes. Americans who are in prison have their own economy—one with rampant inflation, alleged price-fixing, and a fish packet-based economy.
See, in federal prisons, where smoking has been banned since 2004, the underground economy needed to find a new currency to replace packs of cigarettes. That currency? Packets of mackerel. No, really.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mark Muntz, president of supplier Global Source, said his company unloaded about $1 million worth of mackerel to commissaries in federal penitentiaries last year, though it’s not particularly popular elsewhere.
“We’ve even tried 99-cent stores,” he said. “It never has done very well at all, regardless of the retailer, but it’s very popular in the prisons.”
Last year in Pennsylvania, some prisoners have filed grievances about the sudden and dramatic price increases of their favorite snacks.
The main beef, according to their complaint, which they mailed to the newspaper, is the cost of an Atkinson’s Chick-O-Stick, an orange-colored, crunchy peanut butter and toasted coconut candy. It previously sold for 40 cents but the price was raised to “an unbelievable $0.90 overnight,” the complaint says.
The other item specified in their complaint is the three-ounce package of Maruchan Ramen noodle soup. It sells for 18 cents in state prisons but is 95 cents in Bucks County jail, the inmates wrote. “Why and how is Keefe [Commissary Network] allowed to offer the same product, in the same region, with such a great price differential?” the complaint asks.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the results of their complaint.