Eileen Dinino, a 55-year-old mother of seven, died Saturday at the Berks County Jail in Bern Township, about halfway through the 48-hour sentence she was ordered to serve after her children racked up multiple truancy violations.
An autopsy has been completed, and no foul play is suspected, but the coroner is awaiting toxicology results before determining a cause of death.
Some legislators are asking why Dinino was jailed.
“I cannot understand how someone ends up going to jail,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County). “They did not murder someone, they did not steal, they did not commit a felony. How does jail time equate to resolving this particular problem?”
Authorities had filed 55 violations against Dinino after her children missed numerous class days in both Reading and Muhlenberg Township.
Those violations each carry a possible five-day jail term under state law.
“That unfortunately is part of the law in Pennsylvania, and I think it is insanity,” said Christian Leinbach, a Republican Berks County commissioner. “There has got to be a better way to deal with truancy than putting somebody in prison.”
Schwank suggested community service or a fine payment plan as more suitable punishments, and Leinbach urged lawmakers to take action.
“I think there are better ways to deal with nonviolent crimes,” Leinbach said. “I am not even sure, quite frankly, that things like truancy and parking should be criminal offenses, and frankly support legislation that would decriminalize those offenses.”
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