Why is ramen so valuable in prison?
It's not "valuable" really, it's one of the cheapest things on canteen, so people end up buying loads of them, because it's a quick meal, you only need hot water.
They're on the canteen menu, meaning you can buy as many as you want, so they're not valuable, but some people might accept some as part of a deal.
I'm not sure on your smoking laws in the US, but U.K. prisons used to run on tobacco. That was the currency. I've asked what it is now, just to be given weird answers like "drugs!"
Nope, drugs are the product, tobacco was the currency.
So noodles are just cheap and handy to have, because they don't feed you enough in prison. I was constantly hungry, but soon filled a cupboard with various noodle packs.
Buy a bottle of super spicy sauce, and you're laughing.
Although when I see them now, I have flashbacks.
The soups are easy to make - hot water, cover for 3 minutes stir, and it's ready. They can be used as currency for little favors you want done that someone else has a talent for. They are also very versatile as a major ingredient in all kinds of goulash and party meals. Those kinds of meals would have anywhere from 5 to 8 or more packages. Sausage sticks, pickles, crumbled Doritos, hot sauce, rolled in a soft tortilla shells. You can feed 10 people with that kind of thing. Any contribution to the "pot" was always welcome and shared.