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Martha going to 'Camp Cupcake'
Stewart to serve her five months at a minimum-security camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
September 29, 2004: 6:59 PM EDT
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Martha Stewart will serve her five-month prison sentence for obstructing justice at a minimum-security prison in rural West Virginia.

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Stewart, 63, has been ordered to report to a prison camp for women in Alderson, W. Va., though she had requested to serve her time at a federal facility in Connecticut, near her 90-year-old mother, or in Florida.

Stewart will begin serving her sentence no later than Oct. 8. She was convicted in March on criminal charges of obstructing justice and lying to government investigators during an insider-trading probe into her late 2001 sale of her ImClone Systems (IMCL: Research, Estimates) stock.

In July, a federal judge in New York sentenced her to five months in jail and five months of home detention. That sentence was stayed, pending the outcome of Stewart's appeal.

Two weeks ago, however, Stewart announced she would serve her sentence now, rather than await the outcome of her appeal. She said she wanted to put her "nightmare" behind her and return to the domestic arts company she founded, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

Stewart had hoped to be assigned to a minimum-security prison in Danbury, Conn., so that she could be near her 90-year-old mother. As an alternative, she requested a facility in Coleman, Fla.

According to news reports, she had specifically asked not to be assigned to the federal prison camp in Alderson because of its remoteness.

Should Martha Stewart have gotten one of the prisons she requested, rather than West Virginia?

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Prison officials typically try to assign prisoners to lockups within 500 miles of their homes. Stewart's homes in Westport, Conn.; Bedford, N.Y.; and East Hampton, N.Y. are roughly 550 to 600 miles from Alderson.

Citing government policy, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman declined to comment on Stewart's assignment. But a law-enforcement source told CNNfn's Allan Chernoff that prison officials worried that the low-level security at Danbury and its proximity to major metropolitan centers would encourage a media frenzy.

Coleman was apparently ruled out due to the hurricanes in Florida, which forced the evacuation of hundreds of prisoners located in lockups throughout the state. Many of those evacuees were sent to Coleman.

Alderson, on the other hand, is isolated and in good, albeit overcrowded, working condition.

Read the indictment
U.S. v Stewart, Bacanovic

Opened as the first federal prison for women in 1927, Alderson sits on 95 acres and houses 1,055 female prisoners, according to the Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman. Inmates double up in rooms equipped with bunk bed, locker, desk and chair.

There are no barbed wire or fences enclosing the camp.

Like all federal prisoners, Stewart won't be allowed many personal items. She will wear khaki garb issued by the Bureau of Prisons and live according to a rigid schedule that includes working seven and a half hours a day, five days a week, for 12 cents to 40 cents an hour. Jobs at the prison include groundskeeper, food service worker or other maintenance work.

Esther Heffernan, a sociology professor at Wisconsin's Edgewood College, who's visited and written about Alderson, said the prison has a rich history.

Notorious past inmates include "Axis Sally," who was convicted of treason for her radio broadcasts from Berlin during World War II; Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, both of whom tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford; and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a communist jailed in the 1950s for trying to overthrow the U.S. government.

"Through the years (Alderson has housed) relatives of famous mobsters and grandmotherly women who embezzled money from banks," Heffernan said. "You've had a real mixture."

The majority of inmates at Alderson, nicknamed Camp Cupcake, are doing time for drug-related offenses, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Heffernan said that while Alderson is "not undesirable," the prison camp's isolation can be hard on inmates. Heffernan, who interviewed Alderson prisoners back in the '60s, said the chief complaint, ironically, was the noise. "Coming from the streets of New York and D.C., women were kept awake at night by the frogs and the crickets."

Bug noise is not likely to be a problem for Stewart, given her Westport, Bedford, and East Hampton residences. It's the distance from her frail mother and other relatives that could be difficult.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Stewart said: "While I had hoped to be designated to a facility closer to my family and more accessible to my appellate attorneys, I am pleased that the Bureau of Prisons has designated me so quickly to FPC Alderson, the first Federal prison camp for women in the United States. I look forward to getting this behind me and to vigorously pursuing my appeal."

While Stewart will continue to appeal her conviction -- and her lawyers have insisted she has a good case -- legal experts said recently that her chances of winning an appeal were slim, which probably figured into her decision to serve her time early.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the company she founded and built into a hugely successful media empire, has been bleeding money. Advertisers have fled in the face of Stewart's worsening legal troubles.

West Virginia
Bureau of Prisons
Martha Stewart

While her legal problems hit her company hard, its shares have jumped after she said she wanted to begin her sentence before her appeal was decided.

The stock also rallied when her company announced a deal with television producer Mark Burnett, the name behind such hits at "The Apprentice" and "Survivor," to explore a possible reality TV show starring Stewart, once she has completed her sentence.

But Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO: down $0.11 to $15.65, Research, Estimates) stock lost ground on news of her prison assignment, falling about 1 percent Wednesday.  Top of page

-- CNNfn's Allan Chernoff and CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report

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