The Corrections Minister wants to introduce new standards for public prisons which would see their performance compared to those run privately.
Serco is currently the only private prison operator in New Zealand and faces financial penalties if it fails to meet targets set by the Government.
It runs Mt Eden prison in Auckland and will take charge of the new prison currently being constructed in Wiri, south Auckland.
Under the current arrangement the prison must meet 37 performance targets, but Serco has recently incurred a fine of $750,000 after failing almost half of them.
Now Anne Tolley wants to bring that same level of accountability to her own department, albeit without the financial penalties.
"We want to get a culture change in Corrections," she said.
"We can't penalise our own department but we can hold them to account and we can show how they are performing."
The union representing public prison staff has rejected the idea, claiming it is not possible to compare private and public prisons directly.
"These prisons are purpose built with the latest technology with all the best security systems," Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon said. "You can't compare the two."
But Tolley said while it will be a challenge to come up with a measure that fairly compares different types of prisons she hopes to have the targets ready next year.
And the Howard League for Penal Reform believes there won't be much difference between the two.
"I don't think there is a clear favourite who will come out best between the private and public prison sector," Jarrod Gilbert said. "And I guess this is exactly why this data is potentially useful."