A woman dies in prison during a two-day debtors’ prison jail time, and the woman’s death still remains a mystery. “Did something happen? Was she scared to death?” Judge Dean R. Patton, who had sentenced the woman to the Berks County prison because of her debts, asked the questions that many more are wondering about. As reported by eCanada Now on June 18, an autopsy of the woman was inconclusive and could not provide any answers as to why the mother of seven children died in jail after just one day.
Berks County jail is northwest of Philadelphia and since the year 2000, more than 1,600 people have been in prison over truancy fines. Two-thirds of those temporary inmates have been women according to the local newspaper the Reading Eagle. Despite the federal law passed in 1833 which is supposed to prevent a debtor serving prison time, each state has its own laws and apparently, Berks County in Pennsylvania is proof of that.
The woman who died in Berks County prison after just one day was 55-year-old Eileen DiNino, a mother of seven children. DiNino was from Reading, had no job, had still four children living with her at home, and was just trying to survive. “She cared about her kids, but her kids ruled the roost,” said District Judge Dean R. Patton, who had reluctantly sent the woman to jail after she failed to pay her debt for four years.
During the past years, DiNino had accumulated more than $2,000 in fines and court costs which were related to her kids’ truancy violations, most recently from her four boys who attended a vocational high school. While a truancy fine might be just $75 or even less, the debt increases when court costs continue to accrue. The Star Tribune reports that “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. And she had been cited dozens of times over the years.” At the time of her sentencing, DiNino was facing nine active court cases and 55 citations.
DiNino was sentenced to debtors’ prison on Friday. On Saturday, during a routine blood pressure check of inmates, she was found dead in her cell. Judge Patton, who has reportedly lost sleep over the case, raised the question of whether the mom’s death was due to being scared. “This lady didn’t need to be there ,” he said. “We don’t do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago.”
The Pennsylvania woman who mysteriously died in prison after having been there for only one day was just supposed to be freed from her debt, not from her life. Police do not suspect any foul play. As for now — her death remains a mystery.