Last weekend I attended "Prison Cookery," a talk/demonstration by chef Brinton Holland, organized by the curatorial team It Takes Two to Stereo (IT2TS) and hosted by the Op Shop, an experimental art and community space in Hyde Park.
Prison inmates get $55-75 every two weeks to spend on various (mainly) snack foods from the prison commissary. Brinton showed us how to make a few recipes, derived from his interviews with ex-convicts, that inmates in Texas prisons have devised using these foods as ingredients. The recipes included the "Prison Burrito," which consists of crushed-up ramen noodles, ramen flavoring, and potato chips (in several flavors) mixed together with hot water and kneaded into a burrito shape, and "Prison Cheesecake," which consists of a filling made of powdered milk, Sprite, and fruit jelly in a graham cracker or cookie crumb crust.
Brinton talked a little about the reasons inmates make these dishes; one big one is simple boredom. Another is that prison cafeterias are staffed by prisoners, and rivalries or vendettas (gang-related or otherwise) can mean you might not get served enough food, or that the food you are served is unsafe or unhygienic. He also made and ate this food for a month and a half to get a feel for what it was like, and said that the dishes actually started to taste like the foods they were supposed to represent (burritos, pizza, tamales, casseroles), and that they were more filling than the individual snack foods eaten separately, but that the experience left him feeling sick and exhausted—not surprising, considering the ingredients.
More info and pictures in these posts on the IT2TS blog: Prison Cookery at the OP Shop, Prison Cookery pictures