At a candidate forum on criminal justice reform Saturday, Ben Carson expressed his opposition to mandatory minimum prison sentences and his support for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. The Republican presidential candidate also reiterated his belief that the Black Lives Matter movement should focus its advocacy on all black lives, including those destroyed by abortion and homicide.

The event was hosted by Allen University, a historically black college in South Carolina, and organized by several organizations, including the National Black Police Association and the 20/20 Leaders of America, a group made up of 20 black Republicans and 20 black Democrats. The one-day conference also included speeches by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.

Carson spoke first, and began by reviewing familiar territory — his poor upbringing in Detroit and the example set by his mother, who singlehandedly raised two sons. "My mother never complained and absolutely refused to be a victim," the former neurosurgeon said, emphasizing that his mother rarely relied on government assistance.

Carson talked about the important role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty that ensnares many in the black community. He reminded the audience that during the time of slavery, it was illegal for slaves to learn to read and write and that "when people are well informed it's hard to manipulate them." He also linked America's high incarceration rate to the high out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community.

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