Convicted bank robber Harold Edwards Wesley, 38, says prison is a pretty nice place to be compared with his home in the city's streets.

And to prove his point, Wesley got himself arrested for bank robbery Monday so he could return to his residence of seven years: prison.

That's the scenario an assistant U.S. attorney described yesterday to U.S. Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer, who ordered Wesley held without bond.

" 'I'm tired of living in the streets,' " assistant U.S. attorney Theodore Shmandz said Wesley told police Monday after he was arrested and charged with robbery of the American Security Bank branch at 722 H St. NE. " 'If I get caught I know I'll go back to jail and . . . it's better in jail than on the street without a job or money.' "

Shmandz characterized Wesley, who was released Jan. 22 after completing a federal prison term for robbing the Madison National Bank branch at 500 Morse St. NE in 1978, as having become "institutionalized" and unable to cope with everyday problems of survival.

Shmandz added that Wesley, when he was released earlier on parole, had become involved in a fight the same day so he would be returned to prison.

Wesley was arrested Monday after a man had jumped the teller's counter at the bank, grabbed two bags of money containing several thousand dollars, jumped back over the counter and tried to flee, Shmandz told Dwyer.

Wesley was tackled by branch manager Bobby Greer, Shmandz said, and both men crashed through the glass double doors of the bank just as an officer arrived in response to an alarm.

Dwyer ordered Wesley tested to see if he is fit to stand trial. He was being held last night at D.C. Jail.