PHILADELPHIA, PA — A mother of seven children was sentenced to jail time because she couldn’t afford the government fines imposed on her after her children had skipped school multiple times. She died halfway into her 2-day sentence.
Eileen DiNino, 55, was found dead in her cell on June 7th, 2014, in Berks County Jail. Her children had a habit of skipping school and the government had imposed a number of truancy violations on her. The violations followed with fines and court costs, which accumulated to over $2,000.00, the Star-Tribune reported.
DiNino was unable to pay the steep fines, so she was sentenced to 48 hours behind bars — tantamount to debtor’s prison.
She passed away one day into her sentence.
“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.”
An autopsy has been completed, WFMZ reported, and no foul play is suspected, but the coroner is awaiting toxicology results before determining a cause of death.
Even the judge who reluctantly sentenced her to jail questioned the laws that criminalized her.
“Did something happen? Was she scared to death?” said District Judge Dean R. Patton. “This lady didn’t need to be there. We don’t do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago.”
Under Pennsylvania law, a parent can be jailed 5 days for every truancy. More than 1,600 parents have been jailed in Berks County alone — two-thirds of them mothers — because of unpaid truancy fines since 2000, the Reading Eagle reported.
“I cannot understand how someone ends up going to jail. They did not murder someone, they did not steal, they did not commit a felony. How does jail time equate to resolving this particular problem?” said Pennsylvania Senator Judy Schwank.
Compulsory education laws have impacted society in a great number of ways. Pitched as something being done for the best interests of children, in practice it is a method of control and allows the government to shape and mold the youth into being submissive citizens who accept the status quo. In this case, the state’s social engineering efforts attributed to a woman’s death and another broken family.
“There has got to be a better way to deal with truancy than putting somebody in prison,” said Christian Leinbach, a Republican Berks County commissioner. “That unfortunately is part of the law in Pennsylvania, and I think it is insanity.”
“I think there are better ways to deal with nonviolent crimes,” Leinbach said. “I am not even sure, quite frankly, that things like truancy and parking should be criminal offenses, and frankly support legislation that would decriminalize those offenses.”
Citizens should urge lawmakers to remove the penalties and mandates associated with compulsory education and demand justice for Eileen DiNino.