A strike by inmates at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup entered its third day yesterday, with hundreds of prisoners refusing to report for their prison jobs.

Corrections spokeswoman Beverly Marable said the strike, spurred by a new classification system to determine where inmates will be housed, began Monday morning when most of the 600 inmates who work at the prison refused to leave their cells.

Only about 85 of the 600 inmates with prison jobs, such as laundry, furniture making and food service, were working as of Tuesday, Marable said.

The remaining 1,400 prisoners were locked in their cells at the medium-security men's facility in Howard County and all visits were canceled.

"There has been no violence. There is nothing out of the ordinary," the corrections spokeswoman said.

Warden Terrie Chavis distributed an explanation of the new classification system to inmates Tuesday. Inmates complain that the new classification system, which took effect at all state prisons Jan. 18, makes it more difficult for prisoners to be transferred to lower-security areas.

The warden agreed Monday to talk with a 15-member inmate advisory council about prisoners' concerns, but no date for the meeting has been set. "We {corrections officials} are still talking among ourselves," Marable said.

Marable said the new classification system takes into account an inmate's sentence length and type of crime, and assigns points to certain infractions within the prison. The scores are reviewed once a year to determine in which correctional facilities inmates should be kept.

Chala Sadiki, a spokeswoman for Families of Prisoners Coalition, criticized the state's handling of the inmates' work stoppage.

"We are completely frustrated and completely in the dark every time the prison is shut," said Sadiki, adding that her group wants an ombudsman to serve as a link between prisoners and their families in emergencies.