Older inmates attacked younger ones at the urging of care workers at the Orlando Regional Juvenile Detention Center, state officials have discovered.
Eight detention workers were fired and three of them arrested Monday in connection with the beatings of three teenage boys who were in custody in March.
Officials from the state Department of Juvenile Justice said the practice may have gone on for years, and the agency's investigation continues. The firings and arrests stemmed from one case but further administrative charges may follow.
Staff members allegedly instructed older boys being held in the center to beat younger boys as a way of disciplining them.
"In this case, three juveniles were taken to the larger boys' dormitory where they (the older boys) hit them, beat them, made them fold their clothes and did other demeaning things to them," said David Smith, inspector general for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Inspector Specialist Randall Knighton said the older boys also put the younger boys' heads in toilets, forced the boys to do push-ups, hit them with towels and put mustard in their hair.
In return for meting out punishment, the older inmates received extra food, candy bars and more chances to use the telephone, officials said.
Details of the attack became public in late May when a 16-year-old accused in the attack testified in court as part of his trial defense.
Of those fired, Hector Barrios, Wayne Price and Dennis Lytle were arrested on charges of being principal to a battery, solicitation to commit battery and conspiracy to commit battery.
Knighton said the former employees vehemently deny the allegations. The employees did not comment publicly.