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Bernie Sanders Explains How Free College Can End Mass Incarceration

He calls the current justice system 'an international disgrace.'

Senator Bernie Sanders drew a clear line between two of his major campaign interests -- education and criminal justice reform -- in his opening comments at the BET 2015 Presidential Justice Forum on Saturday (Nov. 21), making clear that his goals involve addressing several of the major intersections his supporters care about.

Referring to the number of people in United States prisons -- 25 percent of the world's prison population comes out of in the U.S. -- as "an international disgrace," the presidential candidate goes on to examine how the systemic failures of our education system contribute to the larger failures of our criminal justice system.

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Citing that black children are significantly more likely to face harsher punishments (like expulsion or suspension) or to enter the juvenile justice system for non-violent drug offenses than their white peers, and that they are significantly more likely to be enrolled in underfunded schools with inexperienced teaching staff, Sanders said that a lack of opportunity and access to resources is setting kids up for a more difficult time from the very beginning.

“We need to take a hard look at the education system," Sanders said. "Black students attended schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers, compared with white students. Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements."

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But, he adds, increasing that access -- creating programs that give kids a real chance at pursuing greater opportunity and higher education -- with free and debt-free college plans at public universities -- will only serve to keep them out of the system and in the classroom.

"We need to give our children, regardless of their income a fair shot at attending college," Sanders said. "That's why I support making college education free for all public universities."

Watch his full comments here: