ATLANTA, DEC. 1 -- On the ninth day that Cuban inmates held hostages at the federal penitentiary here, Jessalyn Campbell dusted, Zel Benton filed papers and Maria Rivera prayed.

Campbell's husband of 41 years, Thomas Earl Campbell Sr., 59, is manager of the prison's factory. Benton's husband, Charles, 34, and Rivera's son, Julio Torres Rivera, 27, are guards there. All three men are hostages.

"Mostly I answer the phone," Jessalyn Campbell said. "I try to pick up a little bit, and I'll get the broom or I'll get the dustcloth. The telephone helps take the time. I haven't left the house since last Wednesday," two days after the siege began.

Campbell has worked at the prison for 17 years and managed the factory for five. The three-story factory was burned by rioting Cuban inmates protesting their possible deportation.

Inmates released one hostage tonight after singing "Happy Birthday" to Carla Dudeck, who has worked for the freedom of the Cuban detainees for the last two years. As Abdul-Samoor Rushdan, 36, a guard and three-year employe of the prison emerged, one of Dudeck's associates, Gary Leshaw, entered the prison as a legal adviser to the Cubans. He emerged later and announced significant progress in negotiations to end the siege. {Details, Page A7.}

Four hostages were released early Sunday as a good-will gesture. About half of the remaining 89 are prison guards in their 20s to 30s. The rest have a range of jobs: accountant, kitchen supervisor, Catholic priest, Presbyterian minister, dental technician and doctor's assistant.

Since the takeover, many hostages' loved ones have spent most of their time at the prison, milling about or waiting and talking in field tents set up on the grounds by the Bureau of Prisons. Warden Joseph S. Petrovsky is discouraging them from talking to reporters.

Others have been trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in their lives. They have stayed away from the penitentiary, but they tend to keep close to their television sets and telephones.

"If there was something I could do, I'd be up there in a minute," Campbell said. "I keep thinking, how could they do this to Tom . . . ."

The Campbells live a quiet life in Griffin, about 30 miles south of the prison. They spend many weekends babysitting for the two small children of their only son and his wife, who live nearby. Tom Campbell is active in the Griffin Lions Club and because the club is small, the wives usually join in, Jessalyn Campbell said.

But all that is on hold until the /ostage crisis is over.

Until then, she gathers bits and pieces of information wherever she can.

Someone from the prison now calls once a day to let her know the general situation. She was particularly grateful for a call from Manuel Echevarria, a teacher who was among the four hostages released over the weekend.

"He said the inmates like {Tom Campbell} and would protect him even with their own lives," Campbell said. "I worry about his blood pressure, but Manny said he has his medicine and is taking it and that they're taking his blood pressure regularly. Manny said they were with some good inmates. Maybe there are some good ones."

Zel Benton, wife of corrections officer Charles Benton, says she has gone back to her job as a file clerk at an insurance company.

She explains it as one way to keeping things on an even keel for their three children, ages 2, 5 and 7.

"I don't like to just be around, or I'd go crazy," Benton said. "And I need to maintain some consistency for the kids. My mother is taking care of the baby now. Ordinarily, Charles does, and he takes the others to school and picks them up because he works the midnight shift.

"I've told them their father is being detained," Benton continued. "They don't know the danger he's in."

The Bentons met and married in Augusta, Ga., where Charles had earned a degree in sociology from Paine College. Zel Benton was taking courses at Augusta College but dropped out after they married and began to have children. He has worked at the prison seven years.

Eight days ago, before the takeover began, Charles called home to ask Zel to get someone else to care for their youngest that day.

He told her he expected to be a couple of hours late because he and other guards were put on overtime as "a show of force to keep the Cubans from doing anything" in reaction to a revived agreement with Cuba to deport some refugees.

She heard nothing more until 6:30 the next morning, when a prison official called.

"It's gone on so much longer than I expected," Benton said today. "It's just a waiting game."

Maria Rivera's son, Julio Torres Rivera, 27, has worked at the prison since he got out of the Army early this year. "He began working as an interpreter in June," Rivera said in Spanish. "Then he applied for a job as a guard and got it."

Julio, she said, is a "very good son. He's always liked to work. He's always been good about helping us."

A marriage while he was still in high school in their native Puerto Rico ended in divorce. Torres' daughter, 8, by that marriage lives with his mother there.

After nine years in the Army, Julio Torres joined his parents and two brothers and one sister in Morrow, an Atlanta suburb.

"He listens to music a lot, all kinds," Rivera said. "He goes to discotheques sometimes. He gives a lot of free time to cleaning and taking care of his car. It's a Toyota Celica Sport. Red.

"My husband was retired because of a nerve disease," Rivera continued. "He's been taking a lot of tranquilizers since this all began.

"We are Christians, and we pray a lot," Rivera said. "I don't know what I'll do when I see him, because I want to see him so much. I'll be so happy if the Lord gives me my son back."