Friday, March 6, 2015

Jean Valjean Bank

Both editorials in the Catholic papers reported on a special bank that will lend money to those who have been fined and because of poverty can't pay the penalty and end up in jail.  The 'Jean Valjean Bank'  is called a bank but it doesn't function like a bank: it doesn't give interest, has  no building and will be distributing funds to be payed back without interest.

There are many in criminal cases not ably to pay the monetary fines levied within 30 days, and go to jail. There are 40 thousand in this predicament.  90 percent of the criminal cases give sentences with  monetary penalties. Many of these are similar to Jean Valjean who stole bread because he was hungry and went to prison: not crimes that cause harm to society. 

This is the first effort  in the world to help young heads of households, and poor young offenders who do not have the necessary funds to keep them out of jail. They have a grace period of six months and a period of a year to pay back without interest what they have received.

Pope Francis has often remarked that one of the  great lacks in the world society is an indifference to the those who are hurting. With the 'Jean Valjean Bank' we see something concrete being done for the   poor of our society. These poor are at the periphery of society, without connections to benefit from the outstretched hand of love, and in most cases not seen. 

In inaugurating the bank the Jean Valjean committee said: "money is able to take away freedom and they want to do something, even if small, to free us from this possibility."  This action is a good sign to the whole of society, and the direction we need to go.  
One of the editorials closes with a wish to see a change in the way we levy fines, more like some of the countries of Europe-- a daily fine. A fine that will be gauged according to the daily income of the offender and the offense committed.

The bank will ask members of society to help in the raising of funds. The idea is a good one and will depend on the  cooperation of society to see it advanced. There is much that can be done in showing concern for those who are on the edges of society;  the very natural concern for our own needs often closes us off to the needs of those most vulnerable in  society.

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