Prisoners Explain Why A Pack Of Mackerel Is The Gold Standard Of Currencies In America's Prisons

Tyler Durden's picture

In 2004, the U.S. banned cigarettes in all federal prisons and it was pretty much the best thing that could have happened to the packaged mackerel industry (yes, you read that correctly...the packaged fish).

So how did a smelly package of fish become the gold standard of America's federal prisons?  Well, for a variety of reasons (we'll let your imagination run wild) prisoners are not allowed to possess actual currency.  Up until 2004, they used cigarettes as their currency of choice to purchase anything from illicit goods such as stolen food and home-brewed "prison hooch," as well as services, such as shoeshines and cell cleanings.  But once cigarettes were banned, prisoners needed a replacement currency and the 'mack' was deemed to be the best choice because it was worth roughly $1 at the commissary and pretty much no one wanted to eat it.

As one prisoner notes in the Wall & Broadcast video below, the 'mack' was also "inherently inflationary" because its supply was limited to 14 macks per week per inmate....

"Mackerel had utility because it was inherently inflationary.  A certain amount of macks came into circulation every day.  Every inmate can only buy 14 mackerels per week.  14 times 500 inmates time 52 weeks is the amount of mackerels that are coming into circulation every year and that's why it was a pretty good stable value of currency."


"The reasons mackerel had value is because inmates believed it had value.  Perfect example of that was mackerels expire after three years. But, people didn't jut throw them away, these became known as "money macks" and retained 75% of the value of "eating macks" because people believed that they still had value and they were still being used in transactions."

...that is at least until prison guards confiscated a massive supply of macks from one prisoner and essentially flooded the market creating a hyper-inflationary environment.

"I'll never forget the day where the macks lost all their value almost overnight.  Someone had a huge amount of money macks and they got confiscated and the administration left them sitting in a bucket.  They essentially introduced hyperinflation.  They flooded the market with money macks."

Perhaps Yellen & Co. could learn a thing or two from this lesson in prison economics.

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xythras's picture
xythras (not verified) Mar 6, 2017 10:48 PM

First Bitches. 

I get a mackerel for not spamming.

Cough up !

-- on a second thought...

WELCOME to Prison Nation Corp.

TSA Announces New “More Involved” Full Body Pat-Downs

pack a clean pair of undies

Vlad the Inhaler's picture

Shepwave taught me how to make mackerel while working from home.

NoDebt's picture

Somebody started putting tungsten in those mackerel cans and suddenly all hell broke loose.  


tmosley's picture

>Not liking mackrel

Some people belong in prison.

curbjob's picture

I once had a supply of mackerel,  but unfortunately I lost them in a boating accident 

AGuy's picture

"I once had a supply of mackerel, but unfortunately I lost them in a boating accident "

yeah.. I've heard old story a million times. Like the sport fishman that said the big one got away! /sarc

Ledlak's picture

"Perhaps Yellen & Co. could learn a thing or two from this lesson in prison economics."

Wishful thinking. You can't teach folks who already know everything. Just ask them. </sarc>

prime american's picture
prime american (not verified) Ledlak Mar 7, 2017 6:26 AM

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Chuck Walla's picture

Yeah, but I prefer Macks to dollars. What can you do for me?

ImReady's picture

Your cell would be full of mack in less than a month! 


Oracle of Kypseli's picture

The only reason Mackerel has value is that you can make deadly weapons out of the can, which are more valuable than a dollar. Something went amiss with this article. The inflationary point made however is still valid. 

2big2save's picture

No cans of any kind are permitted in prison.

The mackerel is in foil pouches, as stated quite clearly in the youtube audio link. While salmon and tuna packaged in pouches are common in U.S. grocery stores, mackerel seems to only be available on Amazon and in prison commissaries.

For those with a Wall Street Journal online subscription, search for the 2008 story "Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets".

QuantumEasing's picture

This still smells less fishy than the FedRes.

And Yellen.

Oh, and Xythras, please FOAD.

JuliaS's picture

"Fishcoins are the future!"

- Fonestarfish

Zero Point's picture

We are assured that the number of Bitcoins is finite. We are assured of this.

HalinCA's picture

Excellent point.  Now we know what Watsona and Deep Thought are doing when they aren't beating chess and go players.


I wonder how much of IBM's stock value is based on the hoard of bitcoins they have stashed ...  and all those Chinese mega super computers?



AlaricBalth's picture

No macks for you. Just smacks for the "First" comment. This ain't HuffPo.

City_Of_Champyinz's picture

Well struck. Now time to fonestar his useless spamming ass. 

VWAndy's picture

 So first they strip search you in public then they arrest you for expossing yourself?

JuliaS's picture

The Onion did a piece on prison economy years ago. One of their best sketches:

GodEmperorNanner's picture

Why aren't you banned? I've seen spambots more informative than you.

83_vf_1100_c's picture

He kicks back to the Tylers. I can think of no other explanation.

migra's picture

In federal correctional centers, stamps were considered money years ago.

Conax's picture

I'd forgotten about the cigarette ban in the prisons.  I bet there were a few ugly incidents when they took away the smokes. 

Cans of food the cons would eat would make more stable money. As new cans are bought, some of the old get eaten.


AlaricBalth's picture

At Club Fed I heard it was 12 Macks for a pack of smuggled smokes. Contraband cell phones were paid in cash, with money smuggled during visitation.

Conax's picture

Sounds fair. You couldn't smoke many with all those eyes on you anyway.

AlaricBalth's picture

In minimum camp my friend told me it was 6 Daytime guards and 2 evening guards to watch 700 people. Not many watchful eyes but if caught you lost your right to be in a camp and you were shipped to a medium security facility.

Conax's picture

I thought they had cameras everywhere. Smokes would be the gold standard in the joint if they can carefully smoke em.


But then there's always a rat.

nc551's picture

Club fed literally has no fences.  Club fed will even have prisoners that drive themselves into town for various work.  If you escape you go back for years left +15 years to a place with fences.  I want to say they don't let anyone into club fed that is doing more than 8-10 years because the escape angle is more attractive.

booboo's picture

Most contraband in prison smells of ass cheese and purple drank

Food Loaf Junkie's picture

Tobacco smuggling by DOC employees is a real problem.  People who would never think of smuggling drugs or other illegal items rationalize smuggling tobacco, more so if they smoke themselves.  The profits are substantial.

AC_Doctor's picture

And that fucking whore Blythe Master's too...

AC_Doctor's picture

Mackerel is probably what Yellen's cunnie smells like...

City_Of_Champyinz's picture

...if you're lucky.


That was the real ending.  Everything in life can get much, much worse.

Right-on Left-off's picture

Reminds me of a really old one.   You gets past the smell, you gots it licked.  Of course with those like Yellen, licking it, is never the intention.

xrxs's picture

Someone needs to teach them about paper macks.

jez's picture

Paper macks are "as good as fish" according to the old proverb.

edifice's picture

How do you think Jesus fed all those folks? Okay, bad joke.  >:)

edifice's picture

What instrument would it be traded under? Mack ETF: MCRL? Mack Bonds with tranches, so you could create ABS insurance derivatives: Mack CDOs and MBS (Mackerel Backed Security).

Prisoners could start a fund... Goldman Macks?

wisehiney's picture

Do they trade holey for mackeroley?

Cabreado's picture

Sorry, can't print fish, and the controls are vastly different.

CaptainObvious's picture

If they can 3D print a house, they can certainly 3D print a fish can. 

OverTheHedge's picture

A valid point - it doesn't actually need to have any fish inside it, just look the part. Counterfeiting can't be too tricky. Label swapping, smuggling in from outside (using a "charger" for Papillion fans). Lots of opportunities.

Does anyone know the dimensions of these cans? How many can you fit, where the sun don't shine?

stubb's picture

depends on how popular you are. 

jez's picture

You can't print fish, and that has been the essence of their value, ever since Nixon closed the fish window in 1971.