Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • The underground economy is real in prison, and people who don't understand it can get into a lot of trouble.

  • There’s actual inmates that create their own stores, and you would see guys with these huge necklaces filled with money. And I’d think, "Where did they get this money?"

  • Hustling is taking place 24 hours a day in prison.

  • Guys in there were... were getting killed, getting robbed, like they would on the street.

  • An inmate with a gun, another appears to be shooting up heroin, all caught on video.

  • Used to get half a dozen in a cell, couple of buckets of hooch and just wedge the door up and just have a party all night and say, "Come and get us copper."

  • Christmas Eve 2021 wasn’t exactly a normal day inside for one group of Brazilian prisoners.

  • Instead, there were scenes that looked more like a stag do than a grim festive period behind bars.

  • Clearly, the inmates, based at a men’s lockup in Goiâna, a city in northeastern Brazil, had put some careful planning into making the best of a bad situation.

  • Leaked mobile phone footage shows a DJ and two female dancers hired for the night’s entertainment.

  • Though prison authorities launched an immediate investigation, questions remain.

  • Smuggling in drugs, smartphones, and scrappy pieces of contraband is one thing. But people?

  • The prison economy is a strange thing, wherever you are in the world.

  • [THE BUSINESS OF CRIME]

  • Prison life has its own informal economy, and when it comes to economic inequality, being inside isn’t always so dissimilar to the outside world.

  • There are still the people who represent the haves as well as the have-nots.

  • Naturally, there are a few key differences.

  • Commodities usually take the place of cash as the dominant currency.

  • I realized that there was a world inside this world. $1 was like a value of $20.

  • Valuable resources can be traded in kind or for favors and influence.

  • It’s practically like, unbelievable the stuff that you can purchase with food.

  • Tobacco, tinned food, toiletriesanything that might make the boredom and squalor of prison life that little bit more bearable.

  • It makes economic sense. Anything non-perishable, easily traded, and packed into standard units is ideal.

  • What became currency was, believe it or not, ramen! It was a noodle!

  • Ramen is big business inside out of necessity rather than any great love of cheap dried noodles.

  • Youve got to have it. There's... Youre going to starve if you don’t.

  • Cuts to the number and quality of meals over the years have created an obvious problem in US prisons.

  • Ramen and other kinds of long-life food can help plug the gap and help mark an inmate’s status.

  • You can tell how well a man’s doing financially by how many soups he’s got in his locker.

  • Plus, ramen can also make a nasty weapon.

  • They would wet it and wrap it with newspaper. It hardens.

  • You know, when you have a dry piece of fruit or something that gets so hard, and it gets to a point where you start sharpening it,

  • and it creates a shank where you insert in somebody and then you could break it in.

  • Cigarettes are old news. Toiletries and tinned fish are where it's really at.

  • Food seasoning also serves as a lucrative side hustle for enterprising inmates working the kitchen detail.

  • Basic staples like black pepper and chili powder are too easily weaponized in fights to be readily available at the canteen.

  • It’s why the kitchen is such a coveted job, especially if someone is looking to exploit and take advantage of the rules.

  • You could sell just about anything that comes out of that kitchen, you know, and there’s people that live off that.

  • Though maybe it isn’t quite right to ignore tobacco’s enduring appeal, at least in the UK.

  • Inflation bites even inside, and the costs have ballooned over the last decade, in part due to an often ignored smoking ban inside prisons.

  • In late 2021, a single packet of cigarette papers worth 59p in an ordinary shop was worth £5, at least in one Staffordshire prison.

  • One inmate even demanded £4 for a strike of a match.

  • Rolling tobacco worth £12.50 in a supermarket trades for £1,000 in several jails across the country.

  • Are you alright?

  • Drugs form another cornerstone of the prison economy.

  • It’s hardly news that jails around the world are awash with narcotics.

  • First time I took it, I smoked it like a spliff, and the guy said, "Yeah, that’s a big mistake."

  • For those who fall into debt with their dealers, the consequences are often severe, with beatings and worse, a very real threat.

  • I mean, there’s men, quite frankly, they get raped, they get killed.

  • The last decade has seen an explosion in the prevalence of spice, the synthetic cannabis alternative.

  • It’s potent, addictive, and often leads to crippling prison debt.

  • What might be cheap and nasty outside is a very different beast in HMP.

  • The smooth working of the prison economy can be crucial in reducing tensions.

  • In the autumn of 2021, Ghanaian ex-prisoner Tetteh Teye took to the radio to talk up the importance of weed in the country’s jails.

  • The authorities, he claimed, were well aware of the booming trade and often turned a blind eye.

  • The system required a steady supply to inmates, who needed it to keep them in good spirits.

  • Without it, violence often rises.

  • The Ghanaian press recently reported several cases of prison guards bringing in Indian hemp, which is then sold on to prisoners, who in turn could sell it to fellow inmates.

  • The prison economy isn’t so different from that in the outside world.

  • Money talks.

  • Where there’s a will, there’s generally a way, even behind bars.

  • Media reports suggest at least one employee was sacked for his part in the Brazilian Christmas party, while three inmates have been transferred to other institutions.

  • According to embarrassed authorities, the investigation is still ongoing.

The underground economy is real in prison, and people who don't understand it can get into a lot of trouble.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A1 US prison ramen economy inmate tobacco brazilian

How to Make Money in Prison

  • 4041 118
    Jeff Chiao posted on 2022/04/14
Video vocabulary