Prison Econ 101

by Zoe Pollock

Ben Paynter explains how to get a good return on your investment in the slammer:

[C]igarettes, the former gold standard for securing everything from a bodyguard to starched laundry, have all but disappeared since tobacco was banned at federal pens in 2004. So inmates have to rely on other forms of currency. All of which means the prison economy runs much like a commodities market: Money in a commissary account can’t be traded, but goods sold at the commissary can be. And since the amounts in circulation are tightly regulated, their value can far surpass their price in dollars.

Besides the unexpected Mackerel currency, he cites a combination lock:

Use: Keeping stuff secure. Plus, you can put it inside a sock to make a weapon.
Value: Let’s just say it’s worth a heck of a lot more than a pack of cigarettes if someone needs one in a pinch.