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Poor Mother Dies in Prison Over Unpaid Fines

 
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    Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 3:53am
Impoverished Mother Dies In Jail Cell Over Unpaid Fines For Her Kids Missing School

BY ALAN PYKE JUNE 12, 2014 AT 9:25 AM UPDATED: JUNE 12, 2014 AT 9:33 AM

A housing unit at the Berks County Jail where Eileen DeNino died.

A housing unit at the Berks County Jail where Eileen DeNino died.

CREDIT: BERKS COUNTY, PA

A mother of seven died in a Pennsylvania jail over the weekend while serving a two-day sentence. Eileen DeNino, 55, was put in the cell where she died because she could not pay thousands of dollars in fines relating to her children’s truancy from schools in the Reading, PA area.

The cause of DeNino’s death is not yet known, but investigators “found no evidence that the death was suspicious,” according to the Eagle. She was reportedly on medication for high blood pressure and other health issues. “Prison officials said they issued no medication to DeNino before her death,” however.

DeNino had been cited 55 times since 1999, according to the Reading Eagle. On top of the individual fines for truancy, the Pennsylvania courts applied a variety of fees that amplified DeNino’s debt. “DiNino’s court file shows a laundry list of court fees for one case alone: $8 for a ‘judicial computer project’; $60 for Berks County constables; $10 for postage,” the Associated Press writes.

The two judges who preside over truancy cases in the county where the DeNinos live expressed regret and frustration over DeNino’s death. “She didn’t have a job. She was living in a house owned by a family member. She was on welfare. We sat and talked for a long time in my office and I could see that she couldn’t pay the fines,” Reading District Judge Wally Scott told the Eagle. “I cleared all her cases last year.”

District Judge Dean R. Patton sentenced DeNino to 48 hours in jail after she failed to produce documentary evidence of her inability to pay the more than $2,000 in accrued fines and fees. The sentence could have been as long as 45 days of jail time. “I bent over backwards for this woman,” Patton told the Eagle, “but I can’t just dismiss her cases without justification.”

Thousands of people have been jailed over truancy fines in the county since 2000, and two in three of those jailed have been women, according to the AP. But the criminalization of poverty is a much broader national phenomenon, with court costs and fees magnifying the statutory penalties for a variety of minor infractions such that the financial penalty snowballs into an unpayable debt for low-income people.

The results, as catalogued in a year-long National Public Radio investigation, are staggering: a 19-year-old jailed for three days after catching a smallmouth bass during rock bass season, because he couldn’t pay the fine; a homeless man sentenced to a year in jail over $2,600 in penalties incurred by shoplifting a $2 can of beer; a recovering drug user sent to jail three times for being unable to make payments on nearly $10,000 in court costs.

Criminal justice reform advocates and civil rights groups say these practices amount to a revival of the sort of “debtor’s prisons” that are supposed to be a relic of Colonial-era history. At the federal level, jailing someone for unpaid debt has been illegal since the 1830s. A Supreme Court decision 30 years ago reaffirmed that judges must determine that an offender is able to pay overdue fines before jailing her, but some states appear to bebreaking with that requirement.

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Lady ICE View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Lady ICE Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 4:18am
smh. 

i got a warning about this after my kids missed a few days.
apparently here they cant miss more than 18 during the whole semester.
excused or not.

Ermm even if you have an illness that causes you to miss days/weeks at a time.Sleepy
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote danieb23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 4:43am
The CJ system is horrible. I'm not surprised. I feel for her kids. I hope they demand answers surrounding their
Mothers death.....this ish sounds sketchy and I hope a cover up isn't in the works!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Wynter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 6:24am
You feel for her kids?? They were the reason she was there in the 1st place.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bunzaveli Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 7:24am
they can fine you for your kids missing days in school ? say word ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote callmeDEva Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 10:07am
She was cited 55 times for her kids missing school? Come on now...very sad those children are without a mother but I don't see how it relates to them not attending school regularly. I wish the article hadn't tried to link the two.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote coconess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 10:13am
Originally posted by bunzaveli bunzaveli wrote:

they can fine you for your kids missing days in school ? say word ?

i didnt know this either.. 

how old..? and is this new? cus i missed hella school in HS.. 

my little cousin missed helllllllla school too (middle school) but half of it was excused for illness.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote liesnalibis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 10:14am
I don't understand why they feel they should profit off her being a bad mother.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rickysrose Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 10:25am
she had seven kids so that's between 7 to 8 absences per child .. or the one teenager being difficult

She shouldve been given her meds, being in jail must've raised her blood pressure, that's when she needed BP pill the most

Hopefully her family can step in, get justice for her and really get a handle on these kids 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote maysay1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 14 2014 at 11:00am
In general I'm against jail time for debts, but if Sallie Mae offered me the option I can't say I would turn it down.
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