US state of Michigan suing inmate to pay for his imprisonment from money he earned writing book in jail

Mythili Sampathkumar
Curtis Dawkins was convicted of murder in 2004 but wrote a novel for publisher Scribner titled 'The Graybar Hotel': Michigan Department of Corrections

Michigan has sued a prisoner serving a life sentence for money he earned in jail for writing a book.

Curtis Dawkins, in prison for a committing murder during a botched robbery in 2004, published The Graybar Hotel last year to rave reviews.

Now the state of Michigan is seeking 90 per cent of his assets to include "proceeds from publications, future payments, royalties.”

Mr Dawkins was “praised as a gifted stylist whose stories illuminated the often overlooked lives of prisoners,” as the New York Times reported.

The state would like the money is family puts in his prison account as well.

Michigan had calculated the cost of Mr Dawkins’ imprisonment since 2005 at $372,000 (£266,000) and the states is one of 40 in the US that could require prisoners to pay for their incarceration.

According to The Guardian, "Michigan collected $3.7m from 294 prisoners" in 2017.

Mr Dawkins has put a third of a $150,000 advance from the publisher towards an education fund for his three children. The rest of the payments from publisher Scribner, part of Simon and Schuster, have been suspended pending the outcome of the litigation.

The former fiction writing graduate student who had suffered from drug and alcohol addiction for several years had killed Thomas Bowman in 2004.

Mr Bowman’s brother was vocal about his opposition to the convicted killer’s book deal and profiting from it while in prison.

The state also frozen his prison account which he used for phone calls, extra food, and paper for his typewriter.

"I did wrong, but those kids are completely innocent,” he told the newspaper, echoing the guilt he had expressed in the foreword to the short story collection.

A hearing is scheduled for early next week on the complaint which the state filed in October 2017.

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