Curtis Dawkins, a felon serving a life sentence for murder, had his debut book published to strong reviews. He wants money from book sales to help pay for the tuition of his three kids. The State of Michigan wants to take 90% of his assets to pay for his incarceration.
Curtis Dawkins, a convicted murderer and publishing sensation, who is hoping to put more than $100,000 from book sales into his kid’s education fund, will most likely have to fork over most of it to pay for his incarceration.
In 2004, Dawkins was convicted for murdering Tom Bowman during a botched robbery on Halloween night in Michigan. The father of three was sentenced to life without parole.
While in prison, Dawkins picked up writing short stories as a way to escape the mundane life behind bars.
“It gets me away from the world I’m trying to turn into fiction, if that makes any sense,” he said.
He never thought his work would get published. But in July 2017, Scribner published his debut book of short stories, The Graybar Hotel. He received a $150,000 advance for the book, which is, incidentally, attracting glowing reviews.
Forty-nine-year-old Dawkins wants to put his portion of the advance and book sales towards tuition, car payments, and dental care for his three kids: Henry, 23; Elija, 19; and Lily Rose, 17. However, the State of Michigan has other plans for the money.
Michigan is one of more than 40 states that can force prisoners to pay for the cost of their incarceration; this includes charging prisoners for room and board or cost of care.
The Michigan Department of Treasury filed a lawsuit against Dawkins in October demanding 90% of his assets, including “proceeds from publications, future payments, royalties” and money his family puts into his prison account.
It points to a state law that allows it to seize assets to reimburse the state for inmate expenses. According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, as of last October, his imprisonment since 2005 has cost the state more than $372,000.
Dawkins, who cannot afford a lawyer, is representing himself. He contends that Michigan state law contains a provision that states the court must take into account “any legal and moral obligation” he has to support his children.
“It seems callous to take money from an education fund for kids when they’re already lost their father for the past 13 years,” Dawkins said.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Bowman, the brother of Dawkins’ victim, has said he thinks any money that Dawkins receives should go to the victim’s family or a charity.
Sharon Hilton, Tom’s mother, says she feels sorry for Dawkins more than anything and is happy he’s found some purpose through writing.
“I can’t think of anything more horrific than having to spend your life in prison,” she said.
Dawkins assets have been frozen until the resolution of the lawsuit.