'Baby Shark' Used as 'Inhuman' Punishment in County Jail, Investigation Finds

Oklahoma County jail detention officers chained incarcerated people to walls and forced them to listen to 'Baby Shark' on a loop at loud volumes for up to two hours.
October 6, 2020, 5:43pm
​Screenshot of the Baby Shark video via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

Incarcerated people at the Oklahoma County jail were chained to walls and forced to listen to "Baby Shark" on a loop at loud volumes for up to two hours, according to charges filed Monday.

Two former detention officers—Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. and Christian Charles Miles, both 21—as well as their supervisor, Christopher Raymond Hendershott, 50, were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy.

According to investigators, using the song to torture prisoners was "said to be a joke between Miles and Butler," and they worked together to "teach [incarcerated people] a lesson because they felt that disciplinary action within the Detention Center was not working in correcting the behavior of the inmates," the Oklahoman reported on Monday. From November to December 2019, at least four incarcerated people were subjected to the abuse, forced to stand in an attorney visitation room with their hands cuffed behind them and chained to a wall. Investigators called the treatment "inhuman."

"It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario," District Attorney David Prater told the Oklahoman. "I would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior."

The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that they learned about "allegations of detention officers being cruel to inmates" in early December, and following the launch of an internal investigation, the officers were "immediately removed from having contact with inmates" per the sheriff's orders. "All three detention officers under investigation either quit or resigned from their positions by the end of December 2019."

The supervisor learned of the mistreatment on November 23, 2019, but "took no immediate action to either aid the inmate victim or discipline the Officers," according to the investigator's report. "This appeared to have led to the Officers continuing to mistreat inmates."

The report details a pattern of Butler and Miles removing men from their cells and taking them to the visitation room, removing the furniture from the room, and shackling them to a wall for hours, as seen on surveillance footage of the jail. They never filed Other inmates filed complaints about the officers to their supervisor Hendershott—at one point, 20 handwritten complaints were delivered from inmates to Hendershott—with all of them being ignored.

The wildly popular 2016 song "Baby Shark" was manufactured by Pinkfong, a Korean educational entertainment brand for children, to be as catchy as possible. The official YouTube video has gotten nearly 7 billion views since 2016.

Just because a song is cute and catchy doesn't mean sonic torture isn't serious. It's a tactic that's been used by Nazis in Holocaust camps and in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to inflict psychological damage on people.

This isn't the first time "Baby Shark" has been deployed by a state agency to torture people into submission, either: Last year, West Palm Beach, Florida blasted the song in public places to try to make homeless people stop sleeping in pavilions.