A list of possible sites for a prison in north Wales will be revealed next week, Justice Minister and Delyn MP David Hanson has announced.
There are five prisons in Wales, but all are in the south
Mr Hanson said a final decision would be made by the end of June.
He told the North Wales Criminal Justice Board (NWCJB) conference in Llandudno, Conwy, he hoped there would be "vigorous debate" on the matter.
NWCJB chairman Clare Pilman said a north Wales prison would boost the region's economy and improve justice.
Mr Hanson told the NWCJB's annual conference on Wednesday: "Early next week I will be publishing a short list of potential sites for extra prison capacity in north Wales which will be up for discussion.
"The intention is to look at whether we need extra space and how and where to provide it.
"The list will include sites in both north and south Wales."
He added: "There is an opportunity for you to engage vigorously in the debate and I am confident you will continue to make the case for a prison in north Wales right up to the end of the consultation period in April."
The NWCJB has estimated a prison could create 1,000 jobs and bring £17m investment into the area.
It claims around 700 people from across the region are serving sentences in jails in England.
The UK Government is examining demand as part of an overall review.
NWCJB chairman Clare Pilman added: "The Local Criminal Justice Boards and local authorities in north Wales have worked hard together to present the case for a prison to government on the grounds that it will help reduce re-offending in north Wales and improve the efficiency of the justice system and the rehabilitation of offenders."