Prisoners on remand will be eligible for drug and alcohol rehab and be offered education under a radical overhaul of the system.
The proposals are part of a restructuring at the Corrections Department that is likely to see job losses as it shifts focus and resources.
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said remand prisoners made up "a big chunk" of the muster, and could serve up to 10 months. However, they were excluded from addiction treatment and literacy programmes.
She is now considering proposals to extend rehabilitation to those on remand.
"Often – particularly with young people – they do all this time on remand and when they are found guilty and sentenced they have done more time on remand than they actually serve on their sentence.
"There is no education, no drug and alcohol rehab. So, it's [about] how we manage those people from the time they come into our care right through until the time they leave Corrections," she said.
Mrs Tolley will today confirm that consultancy firm Cognition will review education in the prison service to ascertain how it can be improved.
A tender process for education programme providers is under way now.
Last week the prisoner muster stood at 8375, 1947 of whom were on remand. The Howard League for Penal Reform has estimated 14,000 prisoners a year are excluded from rehabilitation or literacy programmes because they are on remand.
They are held separately in remand units or wings while awaiting trial or sentencing.
In 2010, Auckland Central Remand Prison was built in Mt Eden – for $218 million – to house about 1000 remand prisoners. Those sentenced to more than 28 days are given an "offender" plan to identify objectives such as education, rehabilitation or developing work skills during their term.
Corrections chief executive Ray Smith was reviewing the management structure in his department to find savings that could be redirected into rehabilitation programmes, Mrs Tolley said. She did not rule out the possibility of job losses.
"One of the difficulties with Corrections is that there are three different silos: you've got prisons, probation, and then rehabilitation services.
"Each of the three has their own complete management structure, so it makes it very hard. Ray is having a look at that whole structure and how we actually manage a prisoner from the time they come in on remand."