We have previously discussed the move in some states to jail parents of truant children. It is part of the criminalization of America where pet peeves of politicians are ramped up to criminal offenses to make a point. Now, Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, Pennsylvania has died while serving one of these ridiculous sentences. The mother of seven died in jail after serving half of her 48-hour sentence.
The 48-hour sentence was in lieu of a $2,000 — a choice that many impoverished parents have to make.
District Judge Dean R. Patton is quoted as asking “Did something happen? Was she scared to death?” He described DiNino as “a lost soul.”
Perhaps not quite as lost as when she was sent to jail for her kids not attending school regularly. The law is another example of how politicians are criminalizing every type of social ill to demonstrate their commitment to an area like education. Little thought is given to how such sentences only worsen the situation in families that already have serious problems. Jail increasingly seems the answer to every social failure for politicians. It not only magnifies the problems in these families but gives these parents criminal records.
In this one county, more than 1,600 people have been jailed and two-thirds of them are women since 2000 over truancy fines. Yet, the “give-them-a-dose-of-jail” crowd will likely be undeterred. What most concerns me is that more affluent people can simply pay these fines so it will be often single mothers from impoverished families who are send to jail. However, prosecutors like Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy have pushed to jail parents for missing teacher-parent conferences. The criminal code is becoming our vehicle of reinforcement of good social habits and behavior. As more such matters are put into the criminal system, politicians demands that their pet peeves of unkept lawns or feeding pigeons be added as well. It becomes a downward spiral into a criminalized society.