Berks County Prison

Being a poor person is the same as being a bad person right? Eileen DeNino, a 55 year old mother of seven died last weekend while serving a two day sentence for inability to pay fines she received for her children being truant from school. The cause of death remains unknown though DeNino was said to have high blood pressure something being incarcerated probably did not help.

DeNino was on welfare and unemployed and did not have the means to pay the $2,000 in fines for her children’s absence from school. Fines that were augmented by court fees.

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.”

Can’t pay? Whatever, go to jail prole! This is America, if aren’t rich you aren’t anything.

DeNino was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for being unable to produce satisfactory evidence that proved she could not pay. I guess she was supposed to hire an attorney? Her seven children will now go on without their mother.

Debtors’ prisons are back and just in time for the relaxation of drug laws. Now the prison-industrial complex can keep churning poor people through the system without having to take a break. Maybe private prisons can become debt collectors too – pay now or work it off in our taxpayer subsidized prison. There is money to be had exploiting poor and desperate people, from sea to shining sea.

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.