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Mother dies in Jail cell during 2 days stint for her child's truancy

Posted by on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM
  • 107 Replies

http://6abc.com/news/mother-jailed-for-truant-kids-found-dead-in-cell/109557/


MOTHER, JAILED FOR TRUANT KIDS, FOUND DEAD IN CELL

VIDEO: Mother found dead in jail
The mother of seven was serving a 2-day sentence for her children's absence from school.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
A Pennsylvania mother of seven died in a jail cell where she was serving a two-day sentence for her children's absence from school, drawing complaints from the judge that sent her there about a broken system that punishes impoverished parents.

Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, was found dead in a jail cell Saturday, halfway through a 48-hour sentence that would have erased about $2,000 in fines and court costs. The debt had accrued since 1999, and involved several of her seven children, most recently her boys at a vocational high school.

"Did something happen? Was she scared to death?" said District Judge Dean R. Patton, who reluctantly sent DiNino to the Berks County jail Friday after she failed to pay the debt for four years.

He described her as "a lost soul," and questioned Pennsylvanian laws that criminalize such lapses as truancy or failing to pay a trash bill.

"This lady didn't need to be there," Patton said. "We don't do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago."

Her death is not suspicious, but the cause has not yet been determined, police said.

More than 1,600 people have been jailed in Berks County alone - two-thirds of them women - over truancy fines since 2000, the Reading Eagle reported Wednesday. Reading, the county seat, is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

"What you see is kind of a slice of inner-city life," said lawyer Richard Guida, who handled truancy cases, including DiNino's, as a Reading School District solicitor for more than a decade. "The people home taking care of the children are mothers. Many times, they're overwhelmed, and some of these kids are no angels."

Language barriers can also be an issue for letters and phone calls between the parents and school, given that the vast majority of the city and school population is Hispanic, he said.

The truancy fines themselves might be $75 or less. However, the debt can add up over court costs and fees. DiNino's court file shows a laundry list of court fees for one case alone: $8 for a "judicial computer project"; $60 for Berks County constables; $10 for postage. And she had been cited dozens of times over the years.

"The woman didn't have any money," said Diana L. Sealy, whose son married DiNino's daughter. "Years ago, I tried helping her out. She had all these kids."

Patton said he has lost sleep over her death. At the same time, he acknowledged that a short jail stint can sometimes "break the habit" of parents who'd rather party into the night than take their children to school the next day. The county started a program a few years ago that gives families 30 to 60 days to keep daily logs of each class and assignment. He estimated that the district truancy rate had dropped more than 30 percent.

DiNino did not work or appear to have much help with four children still at home, according to Patton. She frequently skipped hearings, or arrived without requested documents.

"She cared about her kids, but her kids ruled the roost," Patton said. "She was just accepting what was coming, and (would) let the cards fall where they may."

Although she was often unkempt, she came to court clean and neat to surrender Friday, he said. She had on clean sweatpants, had combed her hair, and had tape holding her glasses together.

"She was a different person. She was cleaned up, smiling," Patton said. "I think she realized, when this is done, the weight was off her shoulders."

Prison Warden Janine Quigley referred the newspaper's call to Berks County Commissioner Kevin R. Barnhardt, chairman of the county prison board.

"This woman died in prison, away from her family," Barnhardt told the Reading Eagle. "And for what?"
by on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM
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Replies (1-10):
TurtleMomma82
by Barbie on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:16 AM
2 moms liked this

That is beyond sad

Foolynroo2
by Ruby Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:17 AM

There is just so much of this I don't understand.  She had 7 children and a number of them burdered their mother with this - because they couldn't get to school.

She had grown children - and none could help her out , but instead allowed her to go to jail.

And how exactly had she died? I hope this story doesn't go away - I hope we find out the details, this is just wrong.

She owed 2,000 dollars for fines and court costs and somehow going to jail for two days would erase those??

what is THAT about?

Foolynroo2
by Ruby Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Its unfathomable, I have no clue what was going on there, I can't seem to understand how making someone go to jail would erase fines?

Quoting TurtleMomma82:

That is beyond sad


Foolynroo2
by Ruby Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:21 AM
2 moms liked this

perhaps if her children had truancy issues, the courts should have stepped in a sent her KIDS to jail.. 

owl0210
by Emerald Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:23 AM
How awful.
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bluebunnybabe
by Ruby Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:24 AM
You can sit out fines in jail in most places. Here it would take a lot longer than two days to take care of two grand though. The most you get credit for is about $200 a day. This is just a really sad story all around & I'm curious what she dies from. Hoping you update if you find out.

Quoting Foolynroo2:

Its unfathomable, I have no clue what was going on there, I can't seem to understand how making someone go to jail would erase fines?

Quoting TurtleMomma82:

That is beyond sad

Anonymous
by Anonymous on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:24 AM
That's Pa :(
Foolynroo2
by Ruby Member on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:25 AM
1 mom liked this

I hope each and everyone of her kids who created this truancy problem, especially those who are NOW GROWN who made this happen for their mother is haunted by her for the rest of their lives.


TurtleMomma82
by Barbie on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Not sure, the article kinda contradicted itself saying that practice wasn't done anymore, but then said that's what the mom was doing.....anyway, I hope those kids have someone to help them.  There is probably more to this story, but I'm sure those kids are going to feel badly the rest of their lives.

Quoting Foolynroo2:

Its unfathomable, I have no clue what was going on there, I can't seem to understand how making someone go to jail would erase fines?

Quoting TurtleMomma82:

That is beyond sad



ER-momma
by LintLicker on Jun. 12, 2014 at 9:26 AM
1 mom liked this
Smh great use of their tax payer money and the courts time. I feel for her family.
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