Criminal Justice

Jailed for 48 hours for not paying $2K in truancy fines, woman suffers heart failure and dies

Jailed for 48 hours in Pennsylvania for failing to pay some $2,000 in truancy fines and costs on behalf of her children that had been adding up for over a decade, Eileen DiNino died there after only a day.

A Berks County coroner’s office report released Thursday attributes her death to natural causes, including heart failure, high blood pressure and fluid in her lungs, the Associated Press reports.

DiNino’s cellmate, Nicole Lord, told WFMZ that jail staff did not provide medical attention to DiNino even though the 55-year-old began moaning and saying she was in pain and could not breathe some 12 hours before her death.

A state police investigation is continuing, and some Pennsylvania lawmakers are suggesting revisions, including a measure known as Eileen’s Law, to offer alternatives to jailing those who can’t or won’t pay truancy fines. Eileen’s Law would require school districts to develop individual plans for resolving children’s truancy issues before seeking help from the legal system, another WFMZ article reports.

“Imprisonment does not solve the problem of truancy, and tragedies such as this are completely avoidable,” Sen. Stewart Greenleaf told the station. The Republican from Montgomery County chairs the judiciary committee of the Pennsylvania senate.

Current state law provides for those who don’t pay truancy fines to be jailed for up to five days.

District Judge Dean Patton, who sentenced DiNino, said he didn’t want to jail her and described her as “a lost soul,” the AP reports. He questioned why state law criminalizes things like truancy and failure to pay garbage bills.

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