More that 50 inmates at the severely overcrowded Prince William County jail in Manassas rioted briefly yesterday, setting fire to two cell blocks and slightly injuring three prisoners, authorities said.

Deputy Sheriff Gloria Fitzwater said that the noontime disturbance at the jail, which was quelled by sheriff's deputies and police from Manassas and Prince William County, began after prisoners complained about their lunch of cannelloni and kale.

The inmates began throwing food and trays around the 30-year-old jail's cafeteria and, while authorities were trying to suppress the outbreak, Fitzwater said, prisoners set fire to two cell blocks.

Officials said that the jail, originally built to house 31 inmates, yesterday held 109.

After the disturbance, which was brought under control about 2:30 p.m., officials from the Virginia Department of Corrections, which supervises conditions in the state's jails, took about 50 of the prisoners to jails and prisons around the state.

Police said that Steven Dukes, a 31-year-old inmate, has been charged with assault and inciting a riot. Three other inmates were taken to Prince William Hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released.

A $5.7 million jail that will hold 150 juvenile and adults is being built in Manassas and due to be completed next year. "I'm afraid it will be outdated before it's completed because it's going to be too small," Fitzwater said.

In 1974, the Prince William jail was the scene of a similar riot, although officials said yesterday it was not as severely crowded then as it is now.

Virginia jails have been overcrowded for years. The state has embarked on a construction program to relieve the fail overcrowding