The Government is being warned against forcing prisoners to work.
Rolleston, Rangipo and Auckland Womens' are to become working prisons by the end of the year, with all prisoners engaged in a structured 40 hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities.
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said the idea is that all the prisoners are working and learning new skills.
She said the work will be varied and some prisoners will be paid, as is the case with contracts already in place, such as house refurbishments at Rolleston Prison.
Ms Tolley said the move is part of the Government's goal of reducing reoffending by 25% by 2017.
The Green Party supports the broad idea, but said the work must not be treated as a compulsory or punitive measure.
New Zealand First said the Government needs to think about whether it is rewarding prisoners by paying them to work, and whether some of the money inmates earn could be redirected to victims.