Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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.