Martha Stewart Insists Prison Was ‘Horrifying’ and She Learned Nothing From It

It’s been more than a decade since Martha Stewart traded in her apron for a prison uniform, but the experience still resonates with her deeply. Fans were absolutely shocked to find that the queen of homemaking, someone who always presented such a perfect exterior, was hiding so many dark secrets.

In 2004, Stewart was sentenced to five months in federal prison after being found guilty of insider trading. Here’s what she had to say about that time of her life — and why she insists prison was a worthless experience.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart | Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Martha Stewart never expected to become famous

Stewart began her public career modeling and achieved moderate success appearing in television commercials and magazines. Her mother taught her how to sew and cook, and though she had no idea at the time, those were the skills that would one day make her billions.

She married lawyer Andrew Stewart and went to work as a stockbroker. But Stewart couldn’t hide her true talents for very long. After building up a reputation in their social circle as the ultimate hostess, a publishing executive helped her launch Martha Stewart Living Magazine. In a short time, that grew into the global lifestyle brand we know today and made Stewart into the first self-made female billionaire.

She went to prison for insider trading

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart | DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

White collar crimes don’t always receive the same news coverage as murders, but it’s not always someone like Martha Stewart on trial. After a few weeks of absolute media hoopla, the television personality was found guilty and sentenced to five months in a minimum-security West Virginia federal prison.

Stewart is still shaken by the experience. “It was horrifying, and no one — no one — should have to go through that kind of indignity, really, except for murderers, and there are a few other categories,” she told Katie Couric during a podcast interview. “But no one should have to go through that. It’s a very, very awful thing.”  

Did Martha Stewart learn her lesson in prison?

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Prison isn’t just meant to be a punishment — it’s also a place for rehabilitation and teaching convicted criminals a lesson. But the 78-year-old domestic goddess insists that her time there was a complete waste. When asked if she considered prison a type of “growth experience,” Stewart said no way.

“That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all. It’s a horrible experience. Nothing is good about it, nothing,” she told Couric.

One of the worst parts of it for Stewart was seeing her name dragged through the mud. She said it was awful “being maligned … especially when one does not feel one deserves such a thing. I mean, I was not a bad person.”

Where is Martha Stewart now?

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

More than ten years later Stewart has managed to put her prison past behind her and move on to happier pursuits. She’s still writing books, running a fashion line on QVC, and of course, still gardening, cooking, and homemaking.

Stewart also makes headlines for her unlikely friendship with rapper Snoop Dogg and even produced a show with him, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.