This Mom Died in Jail Because She Didn't Pay Her Kid's Truancy Fines


There’s no doubt that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the most iconic films from the 1980s. Ferris skips school, goes to a Cubs game, drives a Ferrari, gets the gorgeous girl, and outwits Principal Rooney. But would we have been laughing if Ferris’ mother had been thrown in jail because of her son’s truancy and ended up dying there?

That’s exactly what happened to 55-year-old Pennsylvania mom Eileen DiNino. The unemployed mother of seven didn’t have the wealth of the fictional Bueller family, so she was unable to pony up $2,000 for truancy fines that her kids racked up for missing school. Although the federal government outlawed debtor’s prisons in the 1830s, last Friday DiNino, who lived in Berks County, an hour northwest of Philadelphia, was tossed in a jail cell to serve out a two-day sentence. A cause of death is still to be determined, but law enforcement officials didn’t give DiNino the high blood pressure medication she needed. She was found dead in her cell on Saturday, reported The Associated Press.

Really messed up.


Denying any prisoner necessary medication under any circumstance is dreadful. That goes without saying.

But … Persistent truancy due to lack of parental supervision or involvement is a blight on society and parents need to be both capable and willing.


If it’s true they didn’t give her medication and that was the cause of death there needs to be some arrests and prosecutions and the town should be sued into bankruptcy.


If her medications where denied to her, they have a problem.

I have to wonder why the kids where truant all the time. Was social services ever called in to see what was going on with this family? I think putting the woman in jail speaks of a deeper problem as does the chronic truancy of her children. Problems with abuse come to mind, if not simple neglect.

And fining someone who is apparently so poor does nothing in terms of correcting what is really wrong within that family. It is sad, the ideas that seem to prevail in this country: We can put a woman in jail for her kids being truant, while at the same time we find it just fine to let a serial rapist out of jail with the ignorant notion that they can fit into society without harming anyone again. Really?


That’s a really, really bad idea. I live near Reading; a few years ago Newsweek named it the poorest city in the US. It used to be a good city, but now it struggles with drugs and inner city criminal runoff from Philadelphia and New York City. It needs more cops, resources, and good programs for kids, plus God knows what else. Suing the city into bankruptcy would just allow the drug dealers and violent criminals to grow like weeds even more.

Eileen DiNino’s husband died in 2011. She was apparently overwhelmed, the poor woman.

Though this happened last Saturday, the coroner’s report has yet to be released.


Does this help answer the question about why US women are having less kids today?
In plain English the average American family just can’t financially afford to raise kids today without risking going to jail over them.



This is horrific and sad. It’s nearly incredible.

That poor woman. Who will look after her children now? God bless them.


The inference is that she died because she was without high blood pressure medication for 24 hours. At her age, that sounds pretty far-fetched. Someone does not normally die because of a 24-hour lack of high blood pressure pills. There has to be something else going on here.

Plus, when folks land in prison they can’t just expect to carry a bottle of pills in with them for personal use. They have to be seen by a prison nurse or doctor who will request medical records and verify their health conditions, then order new medications from the prison’s pharmacy supply. That can take a day or two, something the news story’s author didn’t feel worth mentioning.


What a sad story! It sounds like it is out of Dickens in the 1800’s rather tthan 21st century America.

7 kids and no husband to help her and no money to pay the fine-hopefully after this they will change a few things.


I disagree. The woman’s death needs investigated and if there was an intentional refusal to provide her with medications then someone needs to be held accountable for her death. If a nurse made a medical error that caused a death he/she could land up in jail and at a minimum lose their license.

Her death, if related to denied medications should be ruled a negligent homicide. I don’t think fining people or putting them in jail for their kids being truant is the answer. This is a matter that should have been looked into by social services, and a determination made as to what kind of assistance may have been needed or if there was a situation in which the kids should have been removed from the home. Fines and jail accomplished nothing in this case but leaving 7 children without a mother. What happens to them now?


Hopefully there will be cause for a lawsuit
and if the children win money can be set up in a trust for the kids.


How could the local Govt even be doing this…if debtors prisons were done away with in the 1800s, why are govts still putting people in jail over owed money? I hope the officers involved get very long prison sentences for this injustice.


This article gives more details about the case.

Mother Of 7 Jailed For Kids’ Truancy Fines Found Dead In Cell

Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, was found dead in a jail cell Saturday, halfway through a 48-hour sentence that would have erased about $2,000 in fines and court costs. The debt had accrued since 1999, and involved several of her seven children, most recently her boys at a vocational high school.


Can you imagine how her kids must feel? I mean, unless for whatever reason they cared nothing for her, they may be thinking they’re the cause of her death.


Unless the woman was unexpectedly hauled directly from home to court to jail with no notice (which didn’t happen), there is no reason for anyone to suggest that it was the jailer’s fault that she died because she didn’t have her high blood pressure meds. There is every reason to believe that she took her pills before going to court that morning, so she wasn’t without her meds for 24 hours. She wouldn’t have taken her next dose until sometime the following day, right about the same time she was found dead.

A person who has a scheduled reporting date to serve a jail sentence has plenty of time to prearrange for necessary medications. In this case, the jail term was NOT a surprise. She showed up in court knowing that she was going to spend 48 hours in jail. She also had to have known that you can’t just walk into jail with a bottle of pills and expect them to take your word for it that they’re necessary medications. You don’t get prescription meds in jail unless you’ve been examined by the jail’s nurse or doctor and they’ve ordered the meds from the jail’s pharmacy.

Although she was often unkempt, she came to court clean and neat to surrender Friday, he said. She had on clean sweatpants, had combed her hair, and had tape holding her glasses together.

Presumably her preparations also mean she took her blood pressure meds that morning, which made her good for the day and some hours into the next day. One does not normally die of high blood pressure within an hour or two of the previous day’s medication dose wearing off.


Why would we hope that someone is guilty here?

Why hope that anyone has done anything wrong?


Because as far as I am concerned she shouldn’t have been fined or incarcerated for her children’s truancy.


That is an issue for the legislature.


The fine or incarceration is something the legislature can sort out.

I am wondering why we would hope someone is guilty whenever something bad happens.


Right. This is more complicated than some posters seem to think. If anyone really wants a fuller story, The Reading Eagle is our local newspaper which has been reporting on this sad event; the stories and interviews are available online, but a little hard to access without a subscription.

Briefly, I’ll say that the “children” are mostly young adults now, with the oldest being 36. There is one young one, a 12 year old boy, who was not involved in the truancies from a career and technology high school.

As NanS noted, Eileen DiNino would have most likely taken her medication before showing up for her sentence at 2pm, and she was found unresponsive by 1:15pm the next day.

I believe the sentencing judge was doing the best he could with a sad case.

I’ll add more facts tomorrow if I have the free time.

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