It may be a sign of hard times, but whatever the reason, having a prison built in your county apparently is not the plague it used to be. At least two counties seem to be vying to be the site for the 1,000-bed prison the state is planning.

Earlier this week it looked as if it were going to be built in Cecil County in the northeast corner of the state. Now two other Eastern Shore counties, Somerset and Caroline, are telling Gov. Harry Hughes they wouldn't mind having the prison built in their areas because of the jobs it would create.

Today, Del. R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, squeezed 11 chairs into his office to meet with the Cecil County commissioners. They are opposed to the prison and asked Mitchell to help them keep the prison out of Cecil.

That may not be difficult, especially if Somerset officials continue to push for the prison. They met this week with Hughes' staff members, and Secretary Thomas Schmidt of Public Safety and Correctional Services is expected to look at a site north of Princess Anne. Caroline, Hughes' home county, is looking at the possibility of a site in the northern part of the county.