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Martha: No more money, please!
Imprisoned lifestyle maven sends message to supporters, says Camp Cupcake is 'fine.'
October 15, 2004: 6:13 PM EDT
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - With one week down and many more to go, Martha Stewart wrote an open letter to fans from prison that was posted Friday on her personal Web site.

In the five-paragraph missive, Stewart described life at the federal prison for women as "pretty much what I anticipated." She said she was doing fine and that everyone she has met, from prison officials to fellow inmates, was "nice."

"I have adjusted and am very busy," wrote Stewart in a posting on "The camp is like an old-fashioned college campus -- without the freedom, of course."

But Stewart also beseeched supporters, who she said have sent hundreds of letters in the past week, to stop including gifts and money. Instead, she asked gift-givers to make donations to their favorite charities or organizations.

"Please know that while these gestures of friendship and support are deeply appreciated, any such items must be returned to the sender by prison officials," she wrote.

In March 2004, when last estimated by Forbes, Stewart's net worth was around $335 million.

Prison officials open all incoming mail.

Federal prison rules generally allow outsiders to send unlimited letters, money orders, magazines and other periodicals, according to David Novak, who spent time in jail for fraud before becoming a prison consultant. Inmates are barred from getting flowers, food, personal items, "sexually explicit photographs," or Polaroid pictures.

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In a book about life behind bars, Novak said the hardest time for inmates is during the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year's-Day holiday period, when no exceptions are made to the gift ban. Prisoners can receive visitors on those days and they can send flowers, however.

Stewart, like all federal prisoners, is allowed to spend a maximum of $290 a month at the prison commissary. It's basically a mini-mart that sells snacks, stamps, and some toiletries.

All inmate money is kept in separate "commissary accounts," according to Novak. Stewart will be allowed to take any leftover funds with her when she is released in March.

Stewart, 63, began serving Oct. 8 a five-month prison sentence at a minimum security camp for women located in Alderson, West Virginia. Stewart, along with her former stock broker, was convicted earlier this year of lying to government investigators during an insider trading probe into some of her personal stock sales.

Although Stewart was allowed to stay out of jail while appealing her conviction, she chose to serve her time now rather than wait the year or two it would take for an appeals court to rule on her case.

Stewart is still pursuing an appeal.

Friday's message was not the only word on Stewart in the past week. Agents for Stewart were reportedly shopping a book deal on her time behind bars, which industry watchers said could fetch $5 million.

Stewart promised followers that more Web site postings would follow, though she did not specify what their frequency would be.  Top of page

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