More prisoners will have to work under a National government, and the money they earn will go towards a victims' fund. Those who refuse will lose their right to parole.
National leader John Key announced plans to boost work and rehabilitation schemes yesterday, and confirmed it would allow the private sector to run prisons again.
Mr Key said a National government would spend $7 million a year boosting the number of inmates in industry-based work from 2500-3500 by the end of 2011.
Mr Key said prisoners were usually paid between 20c and 60c an hour but were charged out at market labour rates.
He said the difference would go back into funding the work programmes, but also into the victims' fund National has proposed.
National wants to put a $50 levy on every person convicted of a crime. At 100,000 a year, this means a total of $5 million to go towards a victims' fund for expenses they face and access to counselling.
"Some people argued that those who commit these crimes and go off to prison wouldn't pay. That's right. But this is one way of recouping it," Mr Key said.
Mr Key said half of New Zealand's prison population of 8000 were currently in work-related activity. The average inmate worked 15 hours a week. Mr Key said about "one in 20" prisoners refused to work, and National would deny these inmates parole.
Mr Key said he did not believe this would require more prisons to be built as those refusing (actually 299 out of about 8000, or one in 27) would likely change their minds when faced with losing parole.
Mr Key said this would not apply to 700 prisoners judged either physically unable or too much of a risk to work.
Mr Key said National would spend an extra $3.4 million a year to provide drug and alcohol treatment to 1000 prisoners by 2011.
Mr Key did not announce National's plans to allow privately run prisons again, although it was contained in material released afterwards.
Labour ended the five-year private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison in 2004.
Kim Workman, the director of liberal-leaning Rethinking Crime and Punishment project, praised National's policy as the best of the two parties.
Mr Workman said National law and order spokesman Simon Power had positive ideas beneath the "tough on crime rhetoric".
Labour Corrections Minister Phil Goff said National was a "Johnny come lately" on prison work and drug treatment.
Privately run prisons:
"Taking away someone's liberty is something only the state should be doing as a matter of principle."
"Whoever carries out those powers are themselves subject to the rule of law, regardless of whether they are a public or private provider."