The new 300-cell HMP Inverclyde will replace Scotland’s only female prison, Cornton Vale near Stirling, and will house high risk and long-term female inmates from across the country.
The site in Inverkip Road in Greenock was formerly home to St Columba’s High School which has been demolished.
HMP Inverclyde prison was originally planned as a replacement for Gateside Prison, also in Greenock, but Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the alternative use was part of a major shake-up in the way female prisoners are treated.
The new prison has already been delayed and is now due to open in 2017
An invitation to tender is expected to be issued to selected firms in early January.