Parents may understand why several former employees at an Oklahoma jail were charged with cruelty after handcuffing inmates and forcing them to listen to “Baby Shark” on repeat for hours.
Fox News reported that Oklahoma County jail employees Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. and Christian Charles Miles, each 21, and their 50-year-old supervisor Christopher Raymond Hendershott were charged with “misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy.”
District Attorney David Prater told The Oklahoman that it “was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario,” adding that he “would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior.”
The outlet reporter that the younger employees, Butler and Miles, were accused of carrying out the punishment but that their supervisor, Hendershott, knew about it but didn’t stop it.
“At least four inmates were subjected to the ‘inhuman’ discipline in an attorney visitation room of the jail last November and December, according to the charge. The inmates was [sic] forced to stand the entire time, hands cuffed behind them and secured to the wall, the investigation found,” The Oklahoman reported.
More from the outlet:
The sheriff said Monday that Butler and Miles were suspended from any contact with inmates “as soon as I knew about it.” He said they resigned during the internal investigation. He said the lieutenant retired.
“We don’t tolerate it,” he said of the mistreatment. “We always did an excellent job policing ourselves.”
Miles confirmed that he and Butler “systematically worked together and used the … attorney booth as a means to discipline inmates and teach them a lesson because they felt that disciplinary action within the Detention Center was not working in correcting the behavior of the inmates,” an investigator wrote in affidavits filed in the case.
“Butler also confirmed that he used the booth as a means of punishment,” the investigator wrote. “The playing of the music was said to be a joke between Miles and Butler.”
The investigator also wrote that playing the music put “undue emotional stress on the inmates who were most likely already suffering from physical stressors.”
In addition, the investigator wrote that Hendershott became aware of the punishment on November 23 but “took no immediate action to either aid the inmate victim or discipline the Officers.”
“This,” the investigator wrote, “appeared to have led to the Officers continuing to mistreat inmates.”
Video surveillance captured the incidents, which showed some inmates forced to listen to the song on repeat for up to two hours.
“Additional incidents were brought to light following staff interviews but were unable to be substantiated with video evidence and victims to support the claims,” the investigator added.
The incident calls to mind reports that U.S. military personnel used “I Love You” from Barney to torture inmates in Guantanamo Bay. The Guardian wrote in 2008 that it was “the most overused torture song.”
“In the torture trade, this is called ‘futility music,’ designed to convince the prisoner of the futility of maintaining his position,” the outlet reported.