East Baltimore City activists and one state legislator have gone to the courts to fight their increasingly futile battle against a state proposal for a 890-inmate prison in their community.

Del. John W. Douglass (D-Baltimore City) and four residents of Baltimore's Kenwood and Orangeville neighborhoods filed a suit in Baltimore Circuit Court last Wednesday charging that the state violated five procedures in arranging the purchase-lease for the site and asking that the lease be voided.

"We've been working on this since September, raising funds through bake sales and auctions to stop the prison," explained Douglass. "We waited to see what happened in the legislature and then we took it to court."

Throughout this year's session members of the Black Caucus and East Baltimore representatives fought the plan to use the abandoned Continental Can factory as a medium-security state prison.

The proposal passed literally minutes before the legislature's midnight deadline, despite last minute filibusters, opening the way for the June 1 purchase-lease arrangement.

Besides fears that the prison would destroy two stable working-class neighborhoods - one white and one black - critics have also charged that it would give a windfall profit of some $1 million to a relative of Gov. Marvin Mandel's principal political patron.

The suit charges that, among other things, the arrangement violates state laws by failing to provide for an environmental impact statement and failing to advertise public meetings on the purchase.