Evan Halper in the LAT

More big talk from Bernie Sanders.

“I don’t make a whole lot of promises,” Sanders said, “but here is one I will make to you: If elected president, by the time I end my first term, this country will not have more people in jail than any other country.”

The vow came as Sanders railed against what he characterized as a racially unjust prison-industrial complex that feeds on mass incarceration.

The use of “complex” implies a financial incentive to lock up people just for profit. Does anyone seriously believe that?

Scholars questioned whether Sanders was aware of just how big a promise he was making. Cutting the U.S. prison population by the more than half a million people needed to get down even to China’s number [1.7 million, so the Chinese say] could only be accomplished by substantially softening penalties for violent criminals, they say.

Nothing in Sanders’ detailed prisons plan suggests he grasps the immensity of the task.

Nothing in Bernie’s campaign suggest he grasps much of anything, especially basic economics. For example:

Sanders explained to the audience that his goal was embedded in his broader policy vision. Raising the minimum wage, eradicating youth unemployment and legalizing marijuana would substantially reduce the flow of Americans into the prison system, he said.

“If anyone thinks there is not a direct correlation between outrageously high youth unemployment and the fact that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, you would be mistaken,” he said. “We spend $80 billion a year locking people up. In my view, it makes a lot more sense for us to be investing in jobs and education rather than jails and incarceration.”

A high minimum wage hurts minority youth the hardest. It cuts many entry level jobs, just when they need to grab the first ring on the economic ladder.

The experience of the last several decades makes clear that the relationship between crime rates and unemployment is, at minimum, more complicated than Sanders’ statement suggests. When unemployment soared during the deep recession that started in 2007, crime went down. Violent crime rose steadily from the late 1950s through the early 1990s, during good economic times and bad.

Moreover, Sanders’ emphasis on marijuana legalization fits a pattern he shares with several other candidates: a strikingly ambitious goal backed by a squishy plan.

Bernie is a fool.

Drug offenders make up only about one in six people in state prisons, which hold the lion’s share of people incarcerated in the U.S., according to data compiled by the institute. Few of those are low-level offenders locked up for simple possession.

To reduce the combined federal, state and local prison population by the amount Sanders’ pledge contemplates, King said, would require softening penalties for violent convicts, too.

“No candidates are talking about that,” he said.

And no candidate will state the obvious: the dysfunction in black communities: begins with boys without fathers. Change that one, serious problem, and the rest solve themselves.

But no, that would be “blaming the victim” so they’d rather blame racism.