PHILADELPHIA – A southeast Pennsylvania woman who died during a weekend jail stint over school truancy fines had complained of breathing problems and seen a prison nurse earlier that day, a state police review says.
State police concluded Thursday that no criminal charges should be filed in the June 7 death of 55-year-old Eileen DiNino, of Reading, an impoverished mother of seven. An autopsy found that she died of natural causes, including high blood pressure that contributed to heart failure.
DiNino entered the Berks County Prison the evening before to clear $2,000 in fines that stemmed from her children's school absences. The state police review found that she reported having "discomfort and some difficulty breathing" early the next day, spokesman David Beohm said. DiNino was seen by medical staff and then returned to her cell to be checked on by guards. But Beohm declined to release a timeline of the medical visit or guard checks.
DiNino was found unresponsive in her cell around 1 p.m., and pronounced dead a short time later.
Her death has prompted statehouse debate about criminal fines and jail terms being levied for truancy, unpaid parking fines and other violations.
District Judge Dean R. Patton, who sentenced DiNino, has said he worked with her for years on the truancy issues and hoped to keep her out of jail. He sensed that she was ready to serve the time and clear her slate.
A private company, PrimeCare Medical Inc., provides health care services to the Berks County Prison, and to many other county jails in Pennsylvania, according to Todd Haskins, vice president of operations.
Haskins declined to discuss DiNino's death or say whether company policies were followed that day. He said all inmates are given health screenings and asked to give a detailed health history upon intake.
"We absolutely never want an inmate to die without care," Haskins said. "But unfortunately, and sadly, people do die of conditions that they've had for a long time, where they may not have been treated, or received appropriate health care, for years and years."
He also said the company's contract includes no financial incentives to cut down on medical costs, inside or outside of the facility.
WFMZ-TV in Allentown first reported Thursday on the state police findings.