FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (AP) - Prosecutors are investigating a program for juvenile delinquents after allegations that a guard forced two boys to lie on nests of red ants because they tried to escape.
The two boys, aged 14 and 15, suffered hundreds of ant bites last summer after trying to escape from the Hurricane Conservation Corps program in southern Miami-Dade County.
Their accusations have led to a broader inquiry that found other complaints of abuse at the state-financed, privately run program.
Both the U.S. attorney's office civil rights division and the Miami-Dade state attorney's office are investigating.
Boys in the program told police and public defenders that weaker boys were targeted for group beatings called ``blanket parties,'' and that new boys were forced to perform mock sexual acts.
A memo by Assistant Public Defender Marie Osborne says the two boys who suffered the ant bites tried to escape in July and were caught by guard Andrew McCray.
The boys alleged that McCray forced them to lie on the ground, one on top of the other, on a mound of the biting ants, and that McCray placed his foot on top of them and pushed them down into the ants.
McCray said he considered the boys escaping felons and that he was trying to restrain them until help arrived. ``I got bitten, too,'' he said.
At the time, the program was operated by Gator Human Services, based in Michigan. The program contract has since been sold to its current operator, Youth Track.
An attorney for Gator told The Miami Herald that Gator had not known of the allegations until after the contract was sold in November.
Four guards have been terminated and one was suspended for three days, according to Rex Uberman, spokesman for the state Department of Juvenile Justice.
McCray said he resigned because he was told to spend more time at work. The juvenile justice department maintains he was terminated because of its investigation.