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Friday, October 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Domestic diva Martha Stewart cooks up tasty hobby behind bars

By Newsday and The Associated Press

Martha Stewart is serving a five-month sentence.
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NEW YORK — Martha Stewart says she has been deluged by "thousands" of letters from fans sent to her federal prison camp in Alderson, W.Va., some of which have even included gifts and money.

But, she lamented, the gifts are not allowed to reach her.

In a posting on her Web site, marthatalks.com, Stewart instead urged fans to make a donation to the American Cancer Society.

"I continue to be touched by the outpouring of support I have received from so many of you," she wrote. "I am also touched that supporters have sent ... thousands of letters to me. I have been told that some of these letters have included gifts and money. 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."

Stewart will complete the second week of a five-month prison term today for lying to the federal government about a stock transaction.

Dawn Zobel, a public-information officer at Alderson, said she could neither confirm nor deny that Stewart has been the recipient of such a tsunami of mail.

However, Zobel said inmate mail is subject to inspection for contraband or other banned items before it leaves the prison's postal facility. If the package or letter is deemed inappropriate, it will be returned.

Meanwhile, Stewart's lawyer said yesterday that Stewart is using her prison time to figure out "innovative ways to do microwave cooking" to share with fellow inmates and is being treated with respect.

"She's making the best of a difficult situation," lawyer Walter Dellinger said on NBC's "Today." "There is no freedom. It's regimented. She has no privacy. They are subject to strip searches. But she's so resilient."

Because inmates are allowed to use only a microwave to cook, Stewart is working with fellow prisoners to "come up with some creative recipes" based on the limited number of ingredients available at the prison commissary, Dellinger said.

"She has a group that is cooking," he said. "She is trying to figure out innovative ways to do microwave cooking, which is all they have."
 
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"What she likes best about it, I think, is how much she likes the fellow inmates and the people who run the prison facility at Alderson, and the respect that they all seem to have for each other," Dellinger said.

Dellinger also said she performed sanitation chores, such as cleaning toilets.

Stewart spends up to three hours a night writing on a prison typewriter with ribbons purchased at a prison store, he said.

Stewart has suggested since her conviction that she might write a book about her recent experience with the legal system.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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