Michigan inmate’s published book raises ethics questions

Posted at 3:33 PM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-09 15:33:54-04

COLDWATER, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan inmate’s book that was published this summer is raising questions as to whether a prison writer should profit from tragedy.

Curt Dawkins, 49, is imprisoned for fatally shooting Tom Bowman of Kalamazoo while on drugs in 2004. He’s serving life without parole at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, the Detroit News reported .

While in prison, Dawkins wrote a collection of 14 fictional short stories about prison life titled, “The Graybar Hotel.” Dawkins said he turned to writing because it eased the burden of facing real prison life.

He mailed his stories to his sister, who submitted them to literary magazines. An editor discovered Dawkins and told a literary agent who signed Dawkins and sold the collection to Scribner for a dollar amount in the low six figures. Dawkins said his share goes toward his children’s education.

But that isn’t sitting well with the victim’s brother. Ken Bowman said Dawkins shouldn’t be allowed to publish anything or feel any satisfaction in his life.

Their mother, however, said she’s glad Dawkins wrote the book. Sharon Hilton also said she has forgiven her son’s killer.

“Instead of staring at four walls, he utilized the opportunities available,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful he’s doing that. It’s proof the Lord can take a tragedy and turn it into a blessing.”

Dawkins said he’s still trying to understand why he shot a stranger.

“I remember bits and pieces of it (the shooting),” he said. “I can’t say why or what it felt like while it was happening.”

Kim Knutsen, the mother of Dawkins’ children, said the fact that something positive could emerge from imprisonment is hopeful. Still, she said, the primary issue is someone died.

“The No. 1 tragedy is that Tom Bowman lost his life,” she said. “That is the dark heart of this whole story.”