Apparently prison has the best potato chips

Today I learned that there's a brand of potato chips available in prison commissaries that are so good, they're almost worth being locked up for. They're called "The Whole Shabangs" and, until 2016, they were only available on the "inside."

Now I Know:

One inmate told NBC News that “The Whole Shabangs are a ray of sunlight in the very cloudy and drab existence that is prison.”

A former inmate joked (one hopes!) on Facebook, saying “why did I have to go to jail to experience the best chips ever made???? Well…. back to jail it is.”

Another posted to Facebook that although she “won’t do time again” to get the chips, she hopes to find someone on the inside who can send her some: “[I’ll] find out who’s about to get out and send some money so they can bring me at least 10 bags of them. They are delicious.”

Even non-criminals swear by the snacks; according to the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star, “Nebraska Parole Board members have a standing request for the canteen to hold a couple of bags so they can buy them when they come to the center for hearings.”

To get some, without being incarcerated, head to The Whole Shabangs online store. They only sell them in nine ($28.50) or twelve ($35.99) packs though. Pretty tempting!

(Now I Know) Read the rest

You can buy death row inmate's art at the San Quentin gift shop

Never know what to get the person who has "everything"? It's pretty unlikely they'll have anything crafted by death row inmates, and that's where San Quentin State Prison's Handicraft Shop (aka the Hobby Shop) comes in.

This unusual Marin County, California store is located right outside the penitentiary's gate and offers a wide assortment of prisoner-made artwork and crafts. That is, if you can get in.

No, you don't have to go through security or be related to an inmate or anything like that to shop there. It just always seems to be closed, despite the posted hours.

I first heard about the shop in the late 1990s and tried several times, unsuccessfully, to get in.

Then, on one late December day some 11 years ago, I caught the attention of the then-new director of the prison's art program as he was closing up shop. He said couldn't let me in that day but promised if I emailed him, he'd get me in soon. Game on.

On Christmas Eve day in 2007, myself and two friends got access.

At the time, I didn't have the money to buy the bigger art (some of which was painted on the back of blue-and-white-striped mattress ticking). Instead, I bought a couple of inexpensive "Jailhouse Rocks," one for myself and one to use as a Yankee Swap gift I was attending that night. From what I gather, inmates can buy kits inexpensively that they can assemble and then sell for a small profit. The kits for the "Jailhouse Rocks" need actual stones from the prison's yard to complete which I found oddly charming. Read the rest

Pop-up restaurant serves last meals of death row inmates

Tokyo-based art collective Chim↑Pom has opened a two-week pop-up restaurant that serves up the last meals once requested by real death row inmates.

For example, before being executed by firing squad in 1977, Utah double murderer Gary Mark Gilmore ate a burger, a hard-boiled egg, and mashed potatoes, and drank three shots of whiskey. Here is Chim↑Pom's version of Gilmore's pre-execution eats:

The Ningen ("Human") Restaurant is located in Kabukicho, Tokyo's red-light district, and is open until October 28 (2 PM to 9 PM).

(Spoon & Tamago) Read the rest