Eileen DiNino should be alive today

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good morning:

Debtor’s prisons were abolished in federal courts in the 1830s, but now they are back as a consequence of the jobless economy, extreme poverty and the financial inability of thousands of people to pay their court fines and costs.

Bill Berkowitz at Truthout reports,

On June 7, Eileen DiNino, 55, a mother of seven, was found dead in a Berks County, Pennsylvania jail cell.

DiNino’s crime? Unemployed, on welfare, and trying to raise seven kids by herself, DiNino was unable to pay several thousand dollars “in fines relating to her children’s truancy from schools in the Reading, PA. area,” Think Progress’ Alan Pyke reported. The fines weren’t solely based on her children’s truancy. Once individuals get caught in the cycle of fines, it can tend to spin out of control.

According to a World Socialist Web Site report by Samuel Davidson, “An Associated Press examination of Ms. DiNino’s fines shows that for one truancy violation $10.00 was added for postage, $60.00 for the county constables and $8.00 for a “computer project.”

She was sentenced to serve 48 hours in jail to clear the fines and costs. She was discovered dead in her cell 24 hours after she was booked into the jail.

55-year-old women do not suddenly drop dead.

Although her cause of death has not been determined, she reportedly suffered from high blood pressure and, as it is not uncommon for jail staff to withhold medication from inmates, I would not be surprised if her death was caused by elevated blood pressure.

Sooner or later, something like this was bound to happen. Courts should not be playing Russian Roulette with the lives of poor people by incarcerating them to collect debts incurred for non-criminal behavior. The fines and costs should be waived, if a person cannot afford to pay them.

This reckless behavior is unconscionable and has to stop.

Here is a link to her obituary.

May she rest in peace.

11 Responses to Eileen DiNino should be alive today

  1. Noneya says:

    Wow Lara Martinez, judge lest ye be judged. The results are in – her death had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs. I hope you live in a glass house.

  2. Maybe she was an alcoholic who died of withdrawal. Would explain why she never got her kids to school & why she kept having baby after baby–she had diminished capacity to make responsible decisions.

    I don’t see the relation to “debtor’s prisons” here: it is mandatory for children to go to school–it’s against the law to allow children long and unaccounted school absences. She had the option of asking the school, the welfare system, a friend, etc. for HELP since she was unable to take care of her many children. She chose to keep doing whatever it was she was doing (drinking & drugging, most likely) instead of obey the law.

    She didn’t go to prison due to a hospital bill–she failed to care for her children who deserve to be taken care of and educated. And then chose jail where she most probably died of alcohol-related problems.

    • Maybe you’re right, but you are just guessing.

      We do not know the cause of death.

      Regardless of her cause of death, the jail medical staff had an obligation to respond more quickly. Discovering her dead body wasn’t quickly enough, unless she suddenly dropped dead.

      Gut even then, the medical staff should have interviewed her when she reported to jail and dealt with her health needs.

  3. kllypyn says:

    IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL TO WITHHOLD MEDICATION FROM ANYONE. Anyone who does should be arrested and charged.

  4. For shame, Pennsylvania.

    • Malisha says:

      AND for shame that school system. Why didn’t the guidance counselor get that family some help? Maybe the kids were home from school or away from school for reasons directly related to their poverty and inability to get help. Their life interests were denied long before their mother was wrongfully deprived of HER LIFE. I hope they sue everybody who contributed to this greedy, corrupt, atrocity.

  5. crazy1946 says:

    I have seen several cases of people having to go to jail (debtor prison?) for being unable to pay medical bills. When ordered to pay the bill by the court and having to choose between food and paying the medical bill, they choose food and ended up in contempt of court and in jail for from one to five days… To those who think debtor prisons have been abolished, I simply say hog wash, they still exist… Thank you Professor for bringing this subject to peoples awareness… Simply another way to keep the poor in their place…

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