Friday, March 04, 2005

What Happens If You're Not Martha Stewart

CLYDE HABERMAN, NY TIMES - As someone who has done time himself, Marc La Cloche is happy for Martha Stewart. She has managed to turn life in federal prison into a nifty career move. Her company's stock is soaring, and she has plans for not one but two television shows. It almost makes you wonder why the Enron types are fighting so hard to stay out of jail.

Brava Martha, Mr. La Cloche says. He only wishes that New York State would let him put his own prison experience to decent use. "I wish her the best," he said of Ms. Stewart. "But I think the best is going to come anyway because she's financially sound. She has avenues that one coming from my situation won't have.". . .

Mr. La Cloche served 11 years in New York prisons for first-degree robbery. While behind bars, he turned his life around. He learned a trade, barbering. He even had the image of a barber's clippers and comb tattooed on his right arm. In 2000, as he prepared to be freed, he applied for a required state license. He was denied it. But that decision was reversed when reviewed by a hearing officer. For a while after his release, Mr. La Cloche worked in a Midtown barber shop. That job did not last long.

New York's secretary of state, who has jurisdiction in these matters, appealed the granting of the license and won. Mr. La Cloche's "criminal history," an administrative law judge ruled, "indicates a lack of good moral character and trustworthiness required for licensure."

In plain language, the fact that Mr. La Cloche had been in prison proved that he was unworthy for the trade that the state itself taught him in prison.

Where is Joseph Heller when we need him? . . .

Of course, Mr. La Cloche can always look on the bright side. Unable as he is to ply his trade, he will have more time now to catch Martha Stewart on television.

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