Mother Of Seven Dies in Jail While Serving Sentence For The Truancy Of Her Children

SchoolClassroomWe 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.

Source: ABC

64 thoughts on “Mother Of Seven Dies in Jail While Serving Sentence For The Truancy Of Her Children

  1. These type of laws are asinine. When I read here 1,600 parents were jailed for their childrens’ truancy I was a bit shocked. But I wonder what is worse; being put in jail for two days and that being the extent of it or getting CPS involved and having the children taken away.

  2. Mindless bureaucrats and soulless politicians need to ‘act tough on crime,’ since they can’t create policies that effectively treat the problem. Jail is the easy solution to all societies ills. Needless jail sentences keeps a bloated police/security complex employed, harmful fines profit diminished local treasuries, and rhetorical speeches and press releases about ‘being tough on crime’ sooth a clueless electorate. No one thinks these draconian punishments can happen to them……until they do. America, to millions (especially minority populations and the poor), is a military industrial, security state, prison complex, not a land of justice, opportunity and freedom.

    As London deals with its homeless population in a potentially deadly manner:

    Outcry over anti-homeless ‘spikes’ in London – Yahoo News

    Feed the rich and ham the poor and middle class is the new mantra of western governments dominated by the moneyed kleptocracy.

  3. Darren – truancy costs the schools money and the students their education. When it become chronic is when something like this is done. In some cases judges have sentenced the parent to go to school with the child.

    More affluent parents usually make sure their kids get to school, so they do not end up getting either fined or jailed.

  4. I thought debtors prisons were done away with. But fines and jail are not the answer to the problem of truant kids. It would probably be a good idea to find out why so many kids are truant. Why are kids skipping school? Why are the parents unable to ensure the kids go to school? Without finding answers to these questions (and many corollaries), the underlying problems won’t go away.

    In this case, the mom seemed to be overwhelmed by her poverty and her illness that made proper care of her kids too difficult. Besides, kids who really want to skip school will find ways regardless of their parents.

  5. Our politicians are killing America and I as one person don’t know what to
    do about it. Writing to my congressperson is the same as sending smoke
    signals. Same results. And it don’t make any sense to ask the people who causes the problem to fix the problem. A revolution won’t help because we
    will wind up with a dictator like Hitler. So my only hope is someday to elect a
    president who has the fortitude to find our way back to the Constitution.

  6. Making a point or not, this is stomach-wrenching. I’m sure there was some underlying health issue, and she may have died at home if she hadn’t gone to jail, which would be sad enough with so many kids to care for. Again, this is voters voting against their own best interests. There are issues and there are crimes. Truancy should not be a crime. (I do like the idea of having the parents go to school with the kid for a day. We all know that would embarrass the kids to never skip class again! But again, the working poor rarely get time off allowed for such things, and that is who this hurts the most often.) I know schools lose money for every child that does not show up for school, and parents are the responsible party for any transgression (to a point), made by their children, but this isn’t civilized.

  7. the judge lied? the judge most likely had other options other than jail. its the lawyers/judges stupid – sticking it america and americans – one case at a time. lawyers will blame the politicians, yet the lawyers are the number one campaign supporters and money contributors to politicians. why – because politicians pass laws, and every new law that gets passed is a lawyer industrial complex stimulous package. every year over 40,000 new laws, rules, regs are put on the books. and virtually every one of them is ambiguously worded, because lawyers can’t make money or argument if the law is cut and dry, black and white. the laws are intentionally written with gray areas – and thats where the lawyers make their money and get their gov’t jobs. and its the lawyers who draft all the language and wording used in the laws. don’t let the judges and lawyers pawn this all off to the politicians (whch many are also lawyers/judges). more than likely, the judges/lawyers are secretly thinking – maybe now the truant kids will learn their lesson – you kids are the ones who killed your mother. lawyers are biggest spinmeister phonies on the planet. lawyers suck.

  8. Good old Paul, It is those who are affluent who care more about their kids, that is why they get their kids to school while those awful poorer, impoverished folks don’t.
    well let’s see maybe they are working 2 and 3 jobs just to put food on the table? Maybe their kids have taken jobs, possibly under the table ones, to help out the family so can’t make it to school (those lazy bums). Perhaps living in poorer communities where they see drug dealers and gang activity makes them afraid to go to school and so on.

  9. (and BTW My friend used to teach at a school where the parents made decent money. On parent teacher night if she got more then 3 -5 parents that was considered a successful night.)

  10. From the news story:

    “Her death is not suspicious, but the cause has not yet been determined, police said.”

    Oh really! They don’t know the cause of death, but have already determined it is “not suspicious.” Anyone want to buy a nice beachfront condo in Wyoming?

  11. This is a disgusting situation that is made worse because she was in jail due to the inability to pay fines. Not only is it stupid and unproductive for parents to be jailed for truancy fines, but it is also stupid for anyone who can’t pay fines to be put in jail for it. Debtor prisons once again.
    that was interesting!

  12. leejcaroll – jump right in there and put words in my mouth. It is a question of priorities. If you are at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, education of your children is not a priority.

  13. rafflaw – this is not a debtor’s prison, although there is some concern we have set them up again using contempt of court proceedings. This was a x dollars or x days in jail sort of thing.

  14. No Paul. She was put in jail because she could not pay the fine. That is putting someone in jail because they are poor.

  15. My first question is why does this woman have seven children? I know we can’t prohibit a woman from having children, but where was her church, her community and her family when she obviously was struggling? Moreover, where are the father(s) who impregnated her? Are they getting punished or did they disappear after shooting off their sperm? Next, what did the government offer this woman who obviously can’t cope with parental duties including school leaders, church leaders and community leaders? And most of all, why did the judge in this situation think that putting this struggling mother in jail would help solve the problem of truancy? All around, this woman’s life as a mother is tragic and everyone involved contributed to the tragedy. The children will be the ones who suffer the most and I don’t expect the judge to adopt them or to volunteer some of his salary to ensure the children have access to a solid education and health care.

  16. rafflaw – are you sure you are an attorney? She was convicted, it is a fine or jail, she could not pay the fine, or would not and so went to jail. Happens all the time. Actually, they would usually rather have the money.

  17. Shameful, another instance in which the poor are given worse treatment than the rich. What a sad statement on our society and some of it’s unjust laws, when dealing with the poor and vulnerable.

  18. Darren Smith, IMO You Are A Very Very Scary Man. Maybe you should investigate more and talk/write less! Go read the story of the New Jersey kid twirling his pencil in class. It has ALL gone too far.

  19. Ah Rafflaw, welcome to the “Prove you are a (insert profession)” club. Why is it necessary to question other commenters credentials? I find that to be quite uncivil.

  20. I am chrious to find out what blog system you have been working with?

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  21. Reprehensible.
    Truancy laws in general are violations of prohibitions against involuntary servitude.
    The demand is, the state has determined you MUST be educated, mandatorily.
    Not being educated, is a crime that must be punished, upon you or your parent.

    Someone being compelled to do something by the state is fundamentally wrong.
    Crap like this death inevitably results from the law of unintended consequences.

  22. So scary it took my breath away…a “life sentence” for having irresponsible children? Schools are more like detention centers now, cops are called for everything a child might do and now a parent lives in constant fear of having their kids taken away???? Makes me almost glad I never got to have any.

  23. From newspaper articles, she was found dead in her cell, cause pending.

    Reports make it sound like she was unemployed, disorganized, and simply overwhelmed. She often missed important court dates, was missing paperwork, or was unkempt. She sounds like a real life version of the Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

    The poor thing. Now how does going to jail help in any way? I wonder if the stress aggravated a condition, such as a heart attack.

    I understand that jail time was introduced as a means to help people get fines off their record that they just could not pay. It was not intended to be a debtors prison. When someone cannot meet one punishment, a fine, then this offers another punishment, instead, jail time. The idea was that the poor should not avoid punishment because they cannot pay a fine.

    The problem is that the level of punishment is different, and I do not know how to solve that. Perhaps community service would be a more reasonable alternative punishment for outstanding fines than jail time.

    Lawyers, help me if I’m wrong, but do people go to jail if they accrue too many fines, or is it always a choice, fine or jail?

    If the goal is to keep kids in school, then we need to take another look at how to accomplish that. Usually, I take the position that parents are responsible for their kids and their behavior. But I think jailing parents goes too far. I’ve known some moms with boys that were wild hares. They had a real problem with them ditching classes. Unless they literally held their teenager’s hand and walked them from class to class, they were at a loss as to how to fix the problem. Punishment, grounding, etc hadn’t worked. I cannot imagine jailing them.

    For kids who are truant through there own fault, this could just be a hard lesson in responsibility. Skip school, don’t graduate, and then good luck getting a job that will support a middle class lifestyle. For kids who don’t go to school because of their parents – such as alcoholism or drug abuse, that’s a matter for CPS.

  24. Karen, it looks like Pennsylvania had a mandatory jail time provision for a failure to pay truancy fines. However, constitutional limits still apply. Unfortunately, someone who is unable to comply with basic requirements to get those constitutional arguments before the court or assemble the evidence to support them loses their chance. The judge’s comments suggest that he dislikes the mandatory jail time, but she didn’t provide him with a legal basis for not imposing it.

  25. More affluent parents usually make sure their kids get to school, so they do not end up getting either fined or jailed. Paul I did not put words in your mouth’ You wrote: More affluent parents usually make sure their kids get to school, so they do not end up getting either fined or jailed. That has nothing to do with Maslow I have a feeling if that was what you meant you would have said it in that note, for instance, but those who are poor/disadvantaged often have other things more important for them to worry about such as food and shelter, but you didn’t.

  26. Darren – thanks!

    Lee – affluent parents still get troubled truant teenagers, and I’ve known some disorganized middle class and affluent moms.

    If it’s a matter of organization or good parenting, anyone of any socioeconomic strata can be a good, organized parent.

    But I do agree that the poor don’t have as much access to counseling for troubled teens. Single moms have a huge risk factor for their kids to drop out, join gangs, and get arrested. It is a real problem. Jailing the moms does not sound like a solution.

  27. Why can’t the hat be passed in the courtroom? The woman’s blood is on the judge’s hands the jail and the children are also responsible.

  28. I live in a PA county next to Reading and have been a social worker/advocate for the poor for over 20 years. Things have gotten exponentially worse since “Welfare Reform” and since Corbett’s Republican non-leadership. Funding for domestic violence shelters and transitional housing has been eliminated til women are forced to stay in life threatening situations or live in cars or squats and hide their predicaments from agencies that would further oppress them as above. There always seems to be funding for the police state end of services.

    Since privatization of medicaid benefits here into corporate HMO’s, these huge insurance contractors constantly fail to provide the mandated care they promised would be cheaper thru them than thru the “state”. Yes, it is cheaper to provide no care- the contractors get their fees, the doctors get miniscule fees and limits on their ability to freely prescribe what care the patients medically need- what they were able to receive prior to the HMO’s limits. Women are ill, working at minimum wage jobs because there is no more job training to prepare for living wage alternatives. If women can find medical services, they have no leave time to attend when they or their children are sick- they lose jobs for doing so. They work without needed prescription medicines- even when diabetic with foot ulcers, with knees broken down from years of menial jobs scrubbing floors, waiting at bus stops with full loads for hours- because when you can find a route that hasn’t been eliminated, it will have been reduced to long waits, no transfers to your area before your shift. I’ve had women call in tears because bus drivers pass them by in the rain and snow to make up for running late that day…leaving a mother with no way to get home for her children’s school bus- another infraction that lands you with Children and Youth and yes, possible jail time.

    People here want to beleive that these are young careless single girls that repeatedly become unwed mothers and live in luxury from it. In reality, these women are frequently middle/lower middle class moms who used to be married, stay at home or PT wage earners, dependent on husbands, til husbands left for greener pastures or beat them once too often, or were taken off to jail for their own DnA offenses, leaving their failies to the mercy of the State. These women are our sisters, aunts, neighbors- they are us- and they are suffering. And yes, dying in jail- swiftly- or slowly, painfully in their everyday lives. The real liars, welfare usurpers, consumers of public largesse are the politicians and their privatizing corporate whores. They claim to know the answers- and yes, in effect they do because their solutions ARE the prison planet, debter’s prisons, police institutions that all share the same secret handshakes, the same false air of decency. They sleep the sleep of the innocent while knowing what they do to these broken people. I try to beleive there is an afterlife where everyone gets their due- but I still can’t sleep.

  29. Karen I agree, it crosses cultural, ethnic, financial and any other lines. (I had been responding to what Paul said). And I agree jailing definitely does not seem like a solution.

  30. Violet this acceptance by way too many that the poor, which includes working poor, have caused their own difficulties and get what they deserve is a shame on this country. It is the continued acceptance of the Reagan “welfare queen” lie.

  31. Lee:

    Here are the modes of thought in a nutshell:

    A) All of the poor are helpless victims of fate, with no responsibility whatsoever for their circumstances, and it is completely unfair that they do not have a middle class life style. They need more government assistance.

    B) All of the poor are completely responsible for their own predicament, and get what they deserve. They should have NO government assistance.

    C) (And I think most people ascribe to this belief) SOME people are poor because of their own life choices – doing drugs, joining gangs, becoming criminals and subsequently unemployable, getting pregnant out of wedlock. They need programs that specifically help overcoming their past mistakes and getting back on the ladder of success. SOME people are poor because they are victims of fate – such as they get the trinity almost guaranteed to cause bankruptcy – lose a job, get a major illness or injury, and divorced. Again, they need programs tailored to get them out of an impossible situation and back on the ladder of success. Programs should be designed to act as spring boards – help during the low times and a platform that launches them back into the pool rather than a permanent hammock. The problem with the hammock paradigm is that they will never have better circumstances.

    The problem is that Liberals confuse group C with group A. Any talk about work requirements, or changing programs to ensure people get back on their feet gets misconstrued as group A. Any complaint about a lack of personal responsibility gets confused with group A. And there are “group A” people out there. They are just in the minority.

    This is why I am a fiscal conservative. There is no magic money tree that grows overnight when the government wastes our taxpayer dollars. Wasteful spending takes money away from where it can do good – such as battered women shelters. If my taxes are going to be spent, they had better do some real good. And closing battered women shelters on the one hand, while giving away free bike helmets to anyone who shows up, regardless of economic status, is NOT how I want my taxes spent.

  32. Jude – no kidding, since the foster care system is so awesome. Our prisons are full of former foster kids.

  33. Violet, it amazes me that some what to privatize everything. So many services went to hell when they were privatized. I’m thinking of Walter Reed Army hospital, prisons, air port security, court room guards.

  34. on 1, June 12, 2014 at 8:41 pmleejcaroll
    Violet this acceptance by way too many that the poor, which includes working poor, have caused their own difficulties and get what they deserve is a shame on this country. It is the continued acceptance of the Reagan “welfare queen” lie.

    Leej, so true, it doesn’t speak well for us as a society, does it?

  35. it is because of people such as paul that the po lie trickers manage to get away with bs like this.. they are fast becoming known under names worse then brown nosers. the poor are poor because of the rich. im really sick of hearing people cry about the rich. the rich are exactly why this world is in the turmoil it is. heres a question for the pauls of the world. if taxes are so legal why do the rich cry so much about paying them? why do they find any and every way to NOT PAY THEM?

    i mean you do realize that when you go shopping for say food. you are not only paying the food manufacturers for their products but your paying the corporation formerly known as the government for buying that food?
    same with clothes, house hold supplies etc.

    why are our taxes paying for leos whose job it is to no longer protect us but to protect the corporation?

    why did the uber rich move their companies overseas or to the other side of the planet?

    do you ever wonder how everything became politicized? and dependent on funding?

    we have no money for education, jobs, youth or senior centers, food pantries or any other necessity but we have multi millions for military weapons?

    and millions for consultants to tell us how to downsize the mta, education, where to put cameras, design software that is used to spy on us. their shutting down schools but building prisons. do any of these question ever bother you? do whats happening in our world even make sense ?

    our kids are able to get trained by the military to be killers at 17 but they cant smoke, drink, go to a club or vote till they are 18 for some and 21 for others?

  36. Shaking – if you would like to cut it down to one or two questions, I would be happy to respond, but I am not up to writing either a thesis or a dissertation.

  37. Karen you believe the lies of the right. First of there are work requirements. Obama did not “gut” them as the right has lied over and over again. A google search shows this term coming up on many, many right wing sites. This is the truth, there are work requirements.
    You lump anyone who may disagree with your position as liberal with only one mind set.
    As someone disabled for over 30 years and who has tried to get to work through social security ticket to work and on my own devices only to fail, there are people, disabled and other circumstances who are not able to climb their way up and out.
    Have you ever been to a welfare office? It is an humiliating experience as is using food stamps, even with the card they now give.
    The states do not do enough and the repubs have gutted many programs that would help people get out of the “hammock”
    (I don’t know anything about free bike helmets but I do know that millions upon millions are wasted in the defense budget, a news article showing the planes, buildings, etc that DOD asked for in Afghanistan and never used and can’;t be used and now will have to be sold for pennies on the dollar.
    I will now lump, the problem with the repubs and the right is that they have consistently refused to trim the pentagon budget, given money for items even when the pentagon has said we don’t need them, and then gut programs to help those in need. (and governors losing millions and billions in their states to refuse Medicaid is a perfect example of how politicians (usually republican, with Medicaid all of the ones refusing are repubs) have no problem hurting their citizens, especially the poor. Maybe if the right finally considered their actions and the effect it has on the country as a whole, as opposed to kowtowing to their base, they would start putting funds where they need to go: to programs that help those in need become contributing members of society, or more contributing. A lot of the folk getting help are the working poor. And for school, if you are hungry or in pain and the help for that is withheld it is hard for you to school, and if you get there to muster the energy and ability to learn. This ultimately hurts us as a whole as we see the abysmal graduation rates and low reading, math, and science scores and placement in the world when compared with other countries. The right has not looked at the long term consequences of their laissez faire policies, the whole of congress have not looked at the long term outcome of legislating to the highest bidder.

  38. Annie commented

    on 1, June 12, 2014 at 8:41 pmleejcaroll
    Violet this acceptance by way too many that the poor, which includes working poor, have caused their own difficulties and get what they deserve is a shame on this country. It is the continued acceptance of the Reagan “welfare queen” lie.

    Leej, so true, it doesn’t speak well for us as a society, does it?

    Annie it doesn’t and it seems to be getting worse not better. And the repubs have to take the blame for this. Giving money the Dod for instance doesn’t need and has wasted while turning their back on those in need, including children, seniors, disabled, working poor much less the abject poor who, without a helping hand, cannot get back up. (And in this country it is the responsibility of us all not just the churches/private charities as some here have said in the past.)

  39. leejcaroll – you really are going to blame this all the on the republicans? Any money being spent is coming from a Democratic President (with veto power) and a Democratic Senate (with veto power). You really have got to get a grip on the reality of American politics.

  40. What was the mens rea component of Eileen DiNino’s “crime” in the penal colony once known as the state of Pennsylvania?

    The so-called “justice” system in the penal colonies of America is an utter disgrace. Too bad Eileen DiNino wasn’t wealthy she could have purchased herself some “justice” American style.

    Who if anyone will be held to account for this travesty of justice?

  41. Paul 60 votes are needed to overcome repubs filibuster. Saying the dems control is continuation of the fallacy that they had a supermajority Here’s example. The Senate voted 56-38 in favor of Warren’s bill to help ease the burden of student loan debt. Despite a majority of senators approving the measure, it failed to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome Republicans’ filibuster of the measure.

    Even if the Prez vetoes the senate repubs can overturn it
    I have a grip. I look at the facts and supply clicks and cites.

  42. leejcaroll – no one knows what it would cost the country. The idea of the student loan fund is that it refunds itself. If only 10% is being paid back by students from the income, no one knows how much is going back into the fund and how much will have to be replenished from the general coffers. Much as I am for students, I could not get behind this bill. I could get behind a bill that would cut college and university costs by 50% though.

  43. My point was the democratic senate has continually found votes stymied because of the 60 vote rule that lets repubs often be the defacto “majority” because of the 60 votes needed to overcome filibuster.
    We disagree about the bill itself but I am not knowledgeable enough about it to debate the merits.

  44. Leej, everyone who comments here knows you have a good understanding of American politics. I know you won’t take such criticisms from people who themselves make questionable assertions daily.

  45. Reblogged this on NEBIOLINI BANKRUPTCY BLAWG and commented:
    This article addresses the intersection between the criminalization of America and the modern form of debtor’s prison. An impoverished mom of 7 chooses to serve 48 hour jail sentence, rather than pay a fine she can’t afford. All because of her son’s truancy.

  46. Question, Were were the kids when mama was in jail. Running loose? Regarding becoming wards of the state. Having been involved in that system somewhat, everyone should know that the mother has more control than a foster parent who can not punish if the child refuses to cooperate. And time out is only for 5 minutes. The kids even tell you that you can’t do anything to them. They will just lie and say you hurt them so they can be moved to another home. I know of two kids that were in 8 homes withing 2 months. That is really a great place to put them. Another great government system!!!

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