- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders on Thursday pushed for more federal spending on youth jobs programs, saying persistent high unemployment for minority youth that he said fuels the United States’ mass incarceration of young black people.

The Vermont senator introduced a bill that would provide $4 billion in federal grants to states and local governments for summer and year-round jobs programs for poor youths. It also fund $1.5 billion in competitive grants to give work-based training to low-income youths and young adults.

“In my view it makes a lot more sense to invest in jobs, to invest in job training and to invest in education than spending incredible amounts of money on jails and law enforcement,” Mr. Sanders said at a press conference at the H.O.P.E. Program, which trains young people in a hardscrabble neighborhood in Washington to be certified IT help desk technicians.

Mr. Sanders is mounting a long-shot campaign against frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He has long championed youth jobs programs and other federal spending to boost employment, but his presidential campaign garnered fresh attention for the cause.  Although the bill dovetailed with his economic agenda, he said that the it was not part of his campaign.

The legislation faces an uncertain fate in the Republican-controlled Congress.

The unemployment rate has remained high — 17 percent for youths and 27 percent for black youths — as the overall unemployment rate declined, falling to 5.4 percent in April, the lowest measure in seven years.

“The result is that tragically we have more people in jail today than any other country on Earth, including China — an authoritarian communist country with a population four times our size,” said Mr. Sanders, who proudly calls himself a socialist.

He cited statistics that show the United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, with 3 percent of the U.S. population under some form of correctional control.

“If current trends continue — and we have to do everything we can to make sure the trends don’t continue — one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime,” he said. “That is an unspeakable tragedy.”

Mr. Sanders introduced the bill with Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat.

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