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CAMP CUPCAKE: Take A Tour Of America's Cushiest Prison

Diane HathawayDiane Hathaway laughs as she’s presented with her robe in January 2009.

An ex-Michigan Supreme Court justice who pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud is likely heading to federal prison camp in West Virginia.

But Diane Hathaway could have it a lot worse. A judge has recommended she be sent to “FCP Alderson” in the foothills of West Virginia’s Allegheny mountains.

The minimum-security facility is known as “Camp Cupcake.”

Martha Stewart went there. So did an ex-beauty queen who was busted for insider trading and a famous American Jazz singer.

Aerial view

The 159-acre minimum-security prison camp is nestled in the scenic hills near Greenbrier State Forest, on the bank of Greenbrier River. The small town of Alderson, W. Va. is located east across the river.

Source: Washington Post

Main entrance to FPC Alderson

Built in 1928, the prison is actually the first federal prison for women. It uses a reformatory model where women are housed in 'cottages' and there's no barbed wire. The had one famous escapee who took advantage of the low security there.

Source: Paula Johnson, 'Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women In Prison.'

Lynette Fromme

Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme was sentenced to life in prison after her attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. She escaped Alderson in 1987 but was recaptured two days later and was ultimately released in 2009.

Source: U.S. Secret Service report, ABC, Los Angeles Times.

Class taught in the 1930s

During her time at Alderson, Fromme had access to a wide range of educational courses from G.E.D. classes to college classes to vocational training. The prison also has a number of recreational classes: yoga (which Martha Stewart reportedly started), fitness, aerobics, cosmetology, and stress relief.

Source: Slate.com, ALD Handbook.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison after she was found guilty of insider trading. She told the Washington Post that her 'daily interactions with the staff and fellow inmates here at Alderson are marked by fair treatment and mutual respect.' Fans sent her more than 15,000 e-mails in her first month there.

Source: Washington Post, CNN.

Martha's arrival caused quite a stir.

The press lined up by the tree-lined gates of FCP Alderson after Martha was sent there in 2004. The trees make it look like she was headed to summer camp or college instead of prison.

A typical prison cell also looks like summer camp

All inmates have access to e-mail (at 5 cents per minute), a common area, television room, and a library. There is also an electronic law library, a hospital, a chapel, and an education building.

Women start out in buildings that can house as many as 125 women, and they're moved to 'cottages' with 60 women if they behave well. They share a room with one other inmate.

Source: ALD Handbook and Forbes

FPC Alderson's main administration building

When she wasn't getting fan mail, Stewart did maintenance including scrubbing floors and cleaning offices.

All inmates must hold jobs at the prison, unless they have a medical condition that prohibits them from working. Most inmates get holidays off.

In addition, apprenticeship programs are offered for teacher assistants, cooks, and electricians, among other professions.

Source: ALD Handbook, Fox News

Inmates walking on the grounds within the complex

And when they're not working, they can wander the grounds.

Inmates are allowed to exit the buildings after the morning count, but must sign out and specify where they are going. They have to return to their dorms by 4:00 p.m.

Source: ALD Handbook

Sewing course in the 1930s and 1940s at Alderson

In the 1930s and 1940s, sewing was part of the vocational training program.

During that era, the prison had perhaps its most famous inmate ...

Source: Federal Bureau of Prisons

Billie Holiday

The jazz singer and songwriter served time in the 1940s for drug possession.

Source: Magdalena Alagna, 'Billie Holiday.'

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