Oklahoma Prisoners Say They Were Forced To Listen To 'Baby Shark' For Four Hours As Part Of 'Torture' Tactic

Photo: Robert V Schwemmer / Shutterstock
County Jail

Three former inmates who spent time in Oklahoma County Jail are now suing those who managed the facility after being forced to listen to the children’s song, “Baby Shark,” over and over at high volumes.

Daniel Hedrick, Joseph “Joey” Mitchell and John Basco filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday in which they are seeking $75,000 in damages from Oklahoma County Commissioners, Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, the jail trust, and two former jailers.

The former inmates claimed they were handcuffed and forced to stand against the wall for hours in 2019 to the song while it was played on loop from a nearby computer.

'Baby Shark' was used as a form of 'torture' in Oklahoma County Jail.

A criminal investigation of the suit determined that at least four inmates were subjected to the punishment in an attorney visitation room in the jail in November and December 2019.

The fourth inmate, Brandon Newell, was unable to join the lawsuit as he was convicted of first-degree murder a month after the incident and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Two former detention officers and their supervisor were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy as a result of the investigation. 

The lawsuit also cites clinical psychologist John Mayer, who wrote in an article for Health that songs like “Baby Shark” can elicit a painful reaction in the brain because of their high-pitched tones and screechy sound that are able to hurt a person's ears.

One of the inmates, Mitchell, was left in the “standing stress position” in the attorney visitation room for as long as three to four hours.

In the lawsuit, lawyers said repeatedly playing “Baby Shark” is a known torment device. 

They cited how in West Palm Beach, Florida, the children’s song was blasted outside an event center in 2019 to keep the homeless from sleeping there at night.

As a result of the 2020 investigation, former detention employees Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. and Christian Charles Miles, both 21, and their supervisor, Christopher Raymond Hendershott, 50, were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy for exposing Hendrick, Mitchell, Basco, and a fourth inmate to “Baby Shark” for extended periods of time.

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The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office said that it was not aware of the lawsuit and said the office no longer runs the jail.

At the time of the incidents, Sheriff P.D. Taylor was in charge of jail operations before a trust took over the jail in July 2020, and Taylor left office after losing reelection.

The current sheriff of the jail, Johnson, was sued in his official capacity. Attorney’s also explained that the lawsuit is procedurally the same as suing the county.

Prosecutors on the case said the punishment induced “undue emotional stress on the inmates” and was “cruel and inhumane.”

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The use of music as a means to torture inmates has been used before.

In 2014, a report conducted by a Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA used music as a "no-touch torture device" against detainees.

It was reported that the CIA would play the same song loudly over and over again.

Both Gregory Cornell Butler Jr., and Christian Charles Miles will stand trial for the criminal case in February 2022. 

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.