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Foley's "Rack 'em, pack 'em, stack 'em" sent packing

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Fledgling Corrections Minister and rising Labor star Peter Malinauskas has fired a none-too-subtle broadside at former Treasurer Kevin Foley over his infamous pledge to “rack, pack and stack” prisoners two or three to a cell in a bid to cut costs.

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Foley’s 2008 pledge to stash away more offenders without increasing prison capacity was succinctly captured with his phrase: “Rack ’em, pack ’em, stack ’em, if that’s what it takes to keep our streets safe.”

But commenting on today’s release of the Productivity Commission’s 2014-15 Report on Government Services, Malinauskas noted a “concerning” 9.7 per cent increase in the daily prison population from the previous year, and signalled a rhetorical – and ideological – departure.

“Previously we have had members of the Government talking about racking ‘em, packing ‘em and stacking ‘em – which I don’t think was particularly helpful rhetoric,” Malinauskas said.

“I will be looking at considered evidence-based decisions about how we can improve our handling of the prison population.”

The Productivity Commission figures show SA spent $207 on each prisoner per day in 2014-15, below the national average of $224.

But Malinauskas said the data suggested a high number of prisoners participating in educational programs – 53.1 per cent compared to a national average of 31.6 per cent. Around 32 per cent of prisoners had undertaken vocational education and training courses, also well above the national average of 23 per cent.

“While this is positive, I think we also need to do more to further reduce the rate of recidivism and ensure that when prisoners return to the community they can make a positive contribution to society,” said Malinauskas.

The state had 2644 prisoners on an average day in 2014-15.

Foley told InDaily he was “very relaxed” about the minister’s comments.

“Times change, and approaches to significant community problems are always subject to reform,” he said.

“What my views were a decade ago are irrelevant to what the Government’s current attitude is.”

The former deputy premier, who left parliament in 2012, said there were “plenty of times when I was a minister that I was critical of previous Labor governments”.

“Peter Malinauskas is showing a degree is courage and boldness in wanting to tackle the core of the issue,” he said.

“Good luck to him.”

Malinauskas was elevated into the ministry in a reshuffle last week, only a month after entering parliament to fill the Upper House seat vacated by Bernie Finnigan.

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