ATLANTA, DEC. 4 -- They watched television, played cards and moved about much as they liked, but some of the people held hostage for 11 days by Cuban inmates at the federal penitentiary here said today that the threat of harm was always present.

"I think we all felt threatened just by the situation itself, not knowing what might happen, knowing some of the eventualities that could happen, but there never was a time where they personally confronted me," said Carl Gates, chief psychologist at the prison.

Gates was among 89 hostages, all prison employes, released early this morning after the Cuban detainees approved an agreement calling for individual hearings and a moratorium on a revived U.S. agreement to deport about 2,500 Cubans who arrived in the 1980 Mariel boatlifts.

All of those interviewed today agreed that they were treated well, and some said they never felt their lives were in danger.

Hostage Gene Dixon, a legal technician, said he felt threatened "the whole time" and kept thinking each day that "maybe it will be over today. Maybe it will end today."

He said the Cubans "treated me like a brother, a member of the family."

Recalling his ordeal after a few hours of sleep, Gates said the hostages were separated into three large groups.

"We were treated very well, very good," he said. "The times that were really hairy for us was when it would look like something would happen, when there was talk that the people outside would retake the prison.

"They {the Cubans} were verbalizing that they would harm us if that happened," he said. "The threat was there and there was a group saying if they came in, they were going to have to take care of the hostages and that they would fight to the death if they had to."

Gates said he was among a group of about 25 hostages who worked in the hospital. He said that the largest group, 40 to 50, was divided into four sub-groups in the chapel area, and that another group was in two dormitories.

He said the hospital workers treated those injured the first day and probably saved the lives of two Cuban detainees shot in the chest during the takeover.

"We gave them emergency life saving services, put them in stretchers with IV {intravenous} hookups and escorted them out where they were taken to local hospitals," Gates said.

"They were critical, and I believe they would have died if they had not been attended to. In fact, if we had not been able to get them out, I don't think we could have kept them alive too long," he said.

Roosevelt Ackey, a food services worker, and Thomas Earl Campbell, a prison factory manager from Griffin, said they never felt that their lives were in danger.

"No, because they assured us that they didn't have any problems with us," Ackey said. "We were just a tool used to attain their goals, and they assured us that if any of the hostages were harmed, their whole plan would have been interrupted and they were determined that we would not be harmed."

Campbell said he "did not have one minute's fear for my own safety. If I was told once, I was told at least 500 times, 'Mr. Campbell, we will not hurt you.' "

Ackey also said the hostages in his group, held in the dormitories, had three meals a day and, although confined to the dormitory, did what they pleased, such as watching television and reading.

Gates said that fires set by the detainees on the first day burst hot water pipes throughout the prison, leaving the facility without heat.

"They got tired like we did," he said. "It was cold, and there was no heat. We weren't freezing, but we had to work in it, sleep in it and eat in it."

Ackey and Gates said the detainees had homemade weapons, including knives, daggers and swords in various sizes.

Ackey said the Cubans had "a regular military-style operation. They had guards, a sergeant of the guard and had regular shifts, the same way the institution operated with correctional officers."

Perry Weimer, an account technician at the prison, told WGST radio in Atlanta that the detainees told them "they were sorry they had to do this. They didn't want us. They wanted the immigration people, but they were not available."