William A. Borders Jr., a prominent Washington lawyer serving a five-year sentence for conspiring to bribe a federal judge, is trying to win a transfer from a federal prison to the District's Lorton Reformatory -- a move that could hasten his release on parole.

James Palmer, the director of the D.C. Department of Corrections, confirmed Friday that Borders' attorney has asked the department if Borders could be transferred from the federal minimum-security prison at Allenwood, Pa., to Lorton. Palmer said that Borders' attorney said his client was seeking the transfer to be closer to home because Borders' mother is ill.

However, Palmer said he notified Borders' attorney, John A. Shorter Jr., that Borders must first seek permission for the transfer from federal prison officials because he is a federal prisoner.

On Friday, federal officials cited privacy rules when they declined to say whether Borders has directed his request to them. Shorter could not be reached for comment.

Justice Department spokesman John Russell said Friday that the department, which prosecuted Borders, would oppose any attempt by Borders to transfer to Lorton. Russell said the department believes that such a transfer would reduce Borders' time in prison and would not be in the public interest.

Federal and local prison officials said that it is rare for a federal prisoner to be transferred to Lorton, particularly because of the facility's persistent problems of crowding.

The U.S. attorney's office here is seeking to force Borders to return $25,000 given to him by an undercover FBI agent as the initial payment of a $150,000 payoff to a federal judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth said that Borders has agreed to refund the money in response to a civil suit prosecutors filed against him, but so far he has failed to do so. "He told us months ago that he would pay it but he keeps coming up with one excuse after another," Lamberth said.

According to Lamberth, Shorter said Friday at a court hearing on the suit that Borders is willing to pay the $25,000 in two installments, $15,000 by Nov. 20 and $10,000 by Dec. 20. Lamberth said prosecutors have not decided whether to accept the offer, but that before any agreement is made they are going to require that Borders submit a sworn financial statement. Another hearing on the suit is scheduled for Friday.

Borders was convicted in 1982 of conspiracy to commit bribery, obstruction of justice and two other charges in connection with a scheme to channel a $150,000 payoff to U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings of Miami. Hastings, who was tried separately, was acquitted of all charges.

Borders was sentenced to four concurrent five-year prison terms and fined $35,000, which he has not paid. Prosecutors are also trying to collect the fine.

He began serving his sentence on May 25, 1983, and in July the U.S. Parole Commission set his parole for May 24, 1986. A Justice spokesman said Borders' parole date will be reviewed again next June and it could be changed then.

Federal officials said that if Borders is transferred to Lorton he would come under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Board of Parole.

H. Albion Ferrell, a member of the D.C. Parole Board, said Friday that if a federal prisoner is transferred to Lorton and officially designated a D.C. prisoner, he could be given a new parole date in accordance with District parole regulations.

Ferrell said a prisoner is first eligible for parole under D.C. rules after serving one-third of his sentence.

If Borders is transferred to the District, he could be eligible for parole after serving 20 months of his sentence, which would mean that he could be released in January 1985, 16 months before he is scheduled to be freed under the federal parole system.

David Chapman, a federal prison official at Allenwood, said that a prisoner has to have a legitimate reason, such as an illness in his family, before prison officials would approve a transfer, and then it would be is up to D.C. corrections officials to accept the prisoner. Chapman said the District several months ago refused to accept a prisoner federal officials had approved for a transfer to Lorton.