CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — In its near 100 years of operation, West Virginia’s federal prison for women has housed some famous names, including Billie Holiday and Marth Stewart.
Federal Prison Camp Alderson is a minimum security prison for women near the town of Alderson, West Virginia that is located right on the Greenbrier, Summers and Monroe county lines.
According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, FPC Alderson opened under the name the Federal Reformatory for Women in 1927, becoming the first federal prison specifically for women. Because it is minimum security, there are no armed guards, and most of the inmates are serving sentences for nonviolent, white collar crimes like tax crimes or embezzlement.
One of Alderson’s most famous inmates was Martha Stewart, who spend five months at “Camp Cupcake,” as it was renamed after her stay, in 2004. Over the years, it has also housed singer Billy Holiday, who was arrested for drug possession, in 1947; Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, who each attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September 1975; and a woman who went by Tokyo Rose who “demoralized” American soldiers using a Japanese propaganda broadcast during World War II, according to the FBI.
If you’re thinking something along the lines of “wow, Martha Stewart must have served hard time in federal prison,” think again. As a minimum security prison, Alderson has no armed guards. Rather than women staying behind bars, the prison is set up more like a college campus with dorms and mandatory employment for inmates, of which it currently has 681. There is also no barbed wire fence and an AP report from when Martha Stewart was incarcerated said that the front gate even remains open.
Prison consulting group Zourkis said it is considered low violence, has lots of activities and allows inmates free movement; “the facility is similar to a boarding school with a more robust education system,” the group’s website says.
FPC Alderson also made a 2012 CNBC list of the best places to go to prison, alongside FCI Morgantown in Morgantown, WV.