A 55-year-old Pennsylvania mother of seven, sentenced to serve two days in jail because her children were absent too much from school and she couldn’t pay some $2,000 in truancy fines, was found dead in her cell.
The Associated Press reported that District Judge Dean R. Patton, who sent her to prison reluctantly, blamed a judicial system that imprisons poor people who can’t pay fines for minor offensives such as truancy fines. He said:
“This lady didn’t need to be there. We don’t do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago.”
It hasn’t gone out in Pennsylvania.
The dead woman was identified as Eileen DiNino, of Reading, who went to jail to wipe clean some $2,000 in fines and court costs imposed on her since 1999 because a number of her children were absent too much from school in Reading and Muhlenberg townships.
The AP reported that more than 1,600 people have been jailed in Berks County over school truancy fines since 2000.