Virginia Del. W.R. (Buster) O'Brien, a former Washington Redskin, announced yesterday he is seeking the Republican nomination for state attorney general on a platform that calls for prisoners to help pay for new prisons and for allowing private corporations to run some prisons.

O'Brien, 39, who is considered the front-runner for the GOP's nomination, also made a point of stating his views on abortion in a race that is expected to place him against another state legislator, Del. Mary Sue Terry, a conservative Democrat from southern Virginia.

"I am pro-life, and antiabortion," O'Brien said in his announcement speech, which he delivered in Arlington, Virginia Beach and Richmond.

A former quarterback at the University of Richmond, O'Brien later played professional football for the San Francisco 49ers, Ottawa Roughriders and the Washington Redskins. He now practices law in Virginia Beach and is serving his fourth year in the House of Delegates.

O'Brien spent much of his announcement yesterday discussing the state's prison system, which has been a major problem for Democratic Gov. Charles S. Robb in the last year because of inmate unrest and escapes.

O'Brien said that he would consider bringing in private firms to run the state prisons, and he would advocate requiring prisoners to pay fees, which would be used to pay for new prison construction. He did not say where the fee money would come from.

"Other states have already utilized the free enterprise system" to run prisons more efficiently, said O'Brien. Kentucky's "user's fees" on inmates has enabled the state to pay for new prisons, he said.

"Those who use our criminal justice system should be responsible for financing at least significant portions of it," said O'Brien.

There is only one other candidate in the Republican contest, Charles City County lawyer Winston Mathews, an unsuccessful candidate for state Senate, and O'Brien, who has the endorsement of all the Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, is expected to easily win the nomination. The nominee will be chosen at a May 31 through June 1 convention in Norfolk.

O'Brien also attacked Virginia's drunk-driving laws yesterday, saying that they are filled with "needless technicalities" that provide escape mechanisms for drunk drivers. Terry was a major architect of some of the laws and she is expected to make them a major theme of her campaign.