NEW YORK – Martha Stewart has undergone a Scrooge-like transformation behind bars, sending out a Christmas call for prison reform that would make Charles Dickens proud.

“When one is incarcerated with 1,200 other inmates, it is hard to be selfish at Christmas,” Stewart wrote in a letter posted Wednesday on her Web site.

“So many of the women here at Alderson will never have the joy and well-being that you and I experience. Many of them have been here for years, devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family,” wrote Stewart, who’s serving a five-month stint at the federal prison camp in Alderson, W.Va.

Stewart also makes the case for changes in the way the judicial system dispenses sentences for convicted criminals. “I beseech you all to think about these women, to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines … for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking,” she wrote. In prison, she says, “there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate.”

The same day she became an outspoken advocate for prison reform, Stewart’s lawyers filed more papers demanding a new trial.

She’s set to be released in March, and then must serve five months of home confinement, which she has said she’ll spend in her Westchester mansion.

Predictably, prison clearly is not Stewart’s favorite locale.

In her posting, she jokes about “bad food” and describes her new hands-on vocation: “Cleaning has been my job, washing, scrubbing, sweeping, vacuuming, raking leaves and much more.

“Like everyone else here, I would rather be doing all of this in my own home and not here, away from family and friends.”


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