All new prisoners are to be screened for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety from June next year.
The Corrections Department currently screens only for acute mental illnesses.
The department estimates the proportion of prisoners diagnosed with acute or sub-acute mental illness will more than double from 5% to 12%.
Its national health manager Bronwyn Donaldson says new prisoners will be asked a series of questions during their routine health screening.
She says the assessments and treatment will mean prisoners can be more productive citizens when they are released back into society.
A contract to carry out the screening will go to tender before Christmas.
Bronwyn Donaldson says the cost of the screening has not been fully budgeted for.