A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers from Berks County have introduced a bill to shake up how the state handles truancy cases.
House Bill 2356, introduced by Pa. Rep. Tom Caltagirone, a Democrat, and Pa. Rep. Mark Gillen, a Republican, is named "Eileen's Law" after a Berks County mother who died in the Berks County Jail earlier this month.
Eileen Dinino was serving a 48-hour sentence because she couldn't pay more than $2,000 in fines for her children's truancy violations, officials said.
"We need to take action now to make sure this doesn’t happen again," Caltagirone said. "By passing Eileen’s Law, we will make sure that people will not be imprisoned simply because they are poor."
Gillen and Caltagirone said "Eileen's Law" would let judges sentence violators to parenting training or community service instead of jail.
"As a former Pennsylvania correctional officer, it is abundantly clear to me that our limited jail space should be reserved for thugs and not mothers," Gillen said. Our House bill (HB 2356) has a firm expectation of school attendance while providing legal flexibility for moms grappling with the death of a spouse, poverty, illness, special needs children, or other family challenges."
Dinino was a single mother of seven children who lost her husband in 2011 after a long illness, officials said.
Dinino's death, Caltagirone and Gillen said, has sparked a commitment to work in a bipartisan and bicameral manner to resolve the issue and pass legislation that will address the concerns. The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee for immediate action.