Michigan Seeks Payment from Prison Author

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Curtis Dawkins, a Michigan prisoner and publishing sensation, could be forced to repay the costs of his incarceration from the proceeds of his literary work, The Guardian reports. Dawkins is serving a life sentence for a 2004 crime spree on Halloween night that left one man dead. His debut collection of short stories, The Graybar Hotel, was written in a Michigan penitentiary and published in July. The Michigan treasury department is seeking 90 percent of Dawkins’ assets, including “proceeds from publications, future payments, royalties” from the book. Michigan puts the cost of his incarceration at $72,000; Dawkins, 49, received a $150,000 advance from Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The state claims that Dawkins, who is representing himself at a hearing next week in Kalamazoo, has no right to pass his literary earnings to his family. Dawkins, who has expressed deep remorse for the murder and described writing as his “lifeboat”, claims his family is being unfairly punished. He says state law contains a provision stating that the court must take into account “any legal and moral obligation” he has to support his children. Kenneth Bowman, the brother of Dawkins’ victim Tom Bowman, told the New York Times last year he believes that any money Dawkins receives should go to the victim’s family or a charity. Many states bar inmates from profiting from nonfiction accounts of their crimes by directing proceeds to victim families, but not to reimburse for their incarceration itself. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University school of law says Michigan is one of more than 40 states where prisoners can be forced to pay for the cost of their incarceration.

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