The Infamous Chips That Used To Only Be Sold In Jail

If there's one thing everybody knows about prison food, it's that it's up there in the "barely edible" category, alongside hospital and elementary school cafeteria food. The main difference, however, is that your hospital stay will likely be a short one, and while your tenure in elementary school may have seemed as if it lasted an eternity, you were only eating one or two meals a day there, five days a week. Prison inmates, however, have no choice but to eat what the chow hall serves up, day after endless day.

The one bright spot in an inmate's diet comes with weekly trips to the commissary. In this popular shop, inmates whose friends or relatives have added funds to their accounts or those who've banked the not-so-generous wages received from prison jobs are able to spend those funds on snack foods. Some prison chefs (including a few incarcerated celebs) even use commissary items to whip up bizarre, yet tasty concoctions with names like "chi chi" and "orange porkies." 

Many of the commissary foods are manufactured specifically for the prison population, and up until recently, one of these was a brand of chips called The Whole Shabang. As one ex-inmate told NBC News in a 2016 interview, "The Whole Shabangs are a ray of sunlight in the very cloudy and drab existence that is prison," while another fan said, "You won't find another potato chip that packs more of a punch than the Whole Shabang."

How The Whole Shabang chips went legit

These chips, which are a tasty blend of barbecue, garlic, onion, salt and vinegar, and other flavors, were so popular amongst their ex-con fanbase that NBC said that there were message boards and Facebook fan pages dedicated to breaking them out from behind bars. Thrillist reveals that in 2016, Moon Lodge, the company manufacturing the chips, finally gave in to popular demand and made them available through their own website. While it seems the chips remain a mail-order only thing, you can now also get them via Amazon as well. What's more, the chips seem to have expanded their range, as they are now available in an "Extreme" version, plus a rippled one, and there are also "Extreme Crunchies" that seems to be their answer to Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

So how do these jailbroken chips taste? Thrillist's reviewer describes them as having a "sweet, vinegary barbecue" flavor that made his "taste buds d[o] somersaults in excitement." He did, however, note that eating these chips as an unincarcerated person with the freedom and disposable cash to order them online could not compare to the experience of consuming them while locked down when they may, in fact, be the only bright spot in a week's worth of regrettable food. As someone (likely a former inmate) once tweeted, "Them 'Whole Shabang' chips hit different in the free world."