Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Gold Standard

The economic gold standard is the half ounce packet of tobacco.  In days past this was Old Holborn, now it is Golden Virginia.

The tobacco half ounce has always been the bedrock medium of economic activity, and this has not changed in the force of the influx of heroin.  For whilst in some locations there may be more economic activity in drugs as measured in GBP, the price of a ten quid bag of smack is largely tied to tobacco rather than natural £10 GBP notes.

The reason for this is that tobacco is a legal item and there are vastly more smokers than heroin users.  As a result, tobacco is easily and conveniently used as the medium of exchange, even by non-smokers.

The illegality of heroin, conversely, limits its availability and it is not used as an economic medium by non-drug users.  Hence a prison may contain a greater GBP value of heroin over tobacco, whilst the latter remains the general medium of currency.

Prisons holding young prisoners forbid tobacco.  I'm fascinated to know what, then, is the bedrock of their economy   How does this affect their socio-economic structures?


  1. In YOIs and prisons holding children, my understanding is that the currency is shower gel and other cosmetic items. Young prisoners often display their gels publicly and very proudly, both to demonstrate their prison-wealth and because cleanliness is an important virtue.

  2. When there was cheap tobacco abroad, and I had some available cash, I bought a load ( for personal use only ;) but gave up smoking ;). And so it became an experimental experience being a tobacco baron for the local hood.

    I have never been so popular with so many people who were trying to please and suck up to me, it was great, my doorbell was going off all the time, it felt great.

    People asked some strange things though, quite often they wanted to pay me later, something I quickly established that I would not do under any circumstances, and some of the things people were trying to give me as payment for some bacca was surreal.

    The difficulty for me was finding the initial outlay and the profit only coming back in drips, therefore getting frittered away rather than doing something useful with it which had been my plan.

    Not worth the hassel was my conclusion in the end, but the prices went through the roof anyway making it impossible for business.

    Btw prison economics is going above my head, but economics in general never was a good subject of mine, I don't get it, hey ho.

  3. NZ has just implemented a No Smoking Policy for all its prisons. Leading up to the ban tobacco was being traded at $800 for a 50g packet. Now that the ban is in force, the flow of drugs into the institutions has all but dried up and the preferred contraband at the moment is tobacco. However, the currency within the prison has moved on from tobacco to phone cards. $5 phone cards being the currency of choice. There has been a huge upsurge in prisoner families depositing $5 phone cards into prisoner accounts.

  4. Even in the harsh regimes of the Detention Centres of the 1970's (where smoking was strictly forbidden!) the currency of the day (as far as the boys were concerned) was 'Toffee Slabs' which came in a variety of tasty flavours.


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