Saturday, October 9, 2004
Alderson, W.Va. Martha Stewart exchanged her clothes for prison-issue khaki trousers and black steel-toed boots Friday, and for the next five months she will be sleeping not on luxurious Egyptian cotton linens, but on plain, military-grade sheets.
Slipping all-but-unnoticed past supporters and TV crews in the darkness, Stewart reported to the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in rural West Virginia to begin serving her sentence for lying about a stock sale. Driven by a security company, she arrived in a dark-colored Ford Expedition that passed through the gates shortly before sunrise.
Federal inmate No. 55170-054 said on her Web site she was looking forward to returning to work in March and enjoying "many brighter days ahead."
Like all new inmates, the 63-year-old millionaire was photographed, fingerprinted and strip-searched upon her arrival, and her personal items were inventoried, said Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington.
Stewart -- who built a homemaking empire with her unerring eye for the finer things in life -- will sleep on a bunk bed in a building that houses 60 women and contains only two showers.
"She's going to have to shower in an area that 60 other women are trying to use as well," said Ron Rubottom, a leader of the guards union. "There'll be four or five toilets. Two sinks. She has to share a blow dryer, a curling iron."
After being interviewed by prison staff and briefed on the rules, new inmates undergo a two-week orientation, during which work assignments are made. Stewart will be eligible for jobs that pay 12 cents to 40 cents an hour. Inmates at Alderson typically rise about 6 a.m. and work most of the day.
Rubottom said an inmate's skills are often considered in making such assignments. "If an inmate has food-service background, obviously we will try to use that inmate in that area," he said.
The prison opened in 1927 about 270 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Its inmates have included Billie Holiday, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally and would-be presidential assassins Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.
Stewart was convicted in March of lying to investigators about why she sold stock in a biotech company in 2001, just before its price plunged. She was allowed to remain free while she appeals her conviction, but asked to begin serving her time anyway, to help remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over her and her company.
After she gets out, she will have to serve five months of confinement at home.
"While I am away, my updates here will be less frequent, if not altogether impossible," Stewart said on her Web site. "But please know this change is only an unfortunate reflection of my current circumstances, and in no way diminishes my commitment to my life's work or to the friends, colleagues, customers and supporters who make it possible."
Stewart also has said she will miss her pets during her stay in prison but hoped to be free in time for spring gardening.
While behind bars, Stewart will forgo five months of her $900,000 yearly base pay from her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Her contract says the company will resume paying her when she gets out of prison.
The prospect of Stewart's arrival in Alderson led five students to skip morning classes at the Beckley Beauty Academy. Stewart was already inside the prison when the students arrived in their beautician smocks.
"I think she rocks. If she needs her hair done while she's here, she should call," Leighann Alderman said.