Sites across the West Midlands have been considered as locations for new prisons, the Government has revealed.
Coventry, Shrewsbury and Lichfield could be chosen as the site of a new prison holding 1,500 people.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is to announce this week that the Government is planning five new prisons to tackle overcrowding, with two going ahead immediately.
Ministers originally planned to build three “Titan” super-prisons housing 2,500 inmates, but his policy has been downgraded in an attempt to save money.
The West Midlands has been chosen as the site for a new prison because it has a shortage of places, along with London and the North West.
The Government’s policy is to hold convicts as close to their own communities as possible, rather than transporting them across the country, as contact with friends and family is believed to encourage rehabilitation.
Ministry of Justice officials have scouted a range of possible locations in the West Midlands. They include Coney Grey Farm, in Ryton, Coventry; Curborough, near Lichfield, Staffordshire; the i54 Development in Wobaston Road, Wolverhampton and land owned by IM Properties PLC at Coleshill, near Coventry. They also looked at the site of Lea Castle Hospital in Kidderminster, Worcestershire; the former British Sugar site in Stourport Road, Kidderminster, Worcestershire; the former British Sugar site at Walcot, Shrewsbury, Staffordshire, and Wheaton Aston Farm in Church Eaton, Stafford.
And officials considered a number of sites in Stoke-on-Trent, including Chatterley Whitfield, Dewsbury Road, Etruria, Grindley Lane, Leek Road, Lightwood Road, Berry Hill, Ravensdale, Sidaway and Brownhills Road.
Whichever sites are chosen, ministers could face a battle against residents who object to prisoners being housed in their communities. However, the new facilities will also create hundreds of jobs wherever they are built.
Sources close to the Justice Secretary denied the U-turn over Titan prisons was linked to spending constraints.
The five new prisons are expected to cost “roughly the same” as the Titans, the source said.
Mr Straw was instead responding to concerns expressed by prisons inspector Anne Owers and others that Titans would be less secure, safe, and effective at rehabilitating offenders.
Sites for two of the five new prisons will be announced next week.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said total prison capacity would still increase as planned.
“We have consulted on plans for new prisons and have listened carefully to all views.
“The Justice Secretary will make a statement on this issue shortly and we cannot comment further on speculation. Since 1997 the Government has increased prison capacity by 24,000 places and we remain on course to increase the total number to 96,000 by 2014.”
Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, the crime reduction charity, said ministers should ditch prison expansion in favour of community punishments.
“Even if the Government is abandoning Titan prisons, its strategy is still based on a large expansion of the prison system. This is a waste of scarce resources which would be better spent on community sentences, offender rehabilitation and crime prevention.
“Instead we need a strategy designed to cut our use of imprisonment to levels nearer those of our European neighbours.”