Defund this, too!
Anything can be used as a weapon in the wrong hands and apparently, that’s even true for the infectious songs that kids love to play non-stop. Former inmates are suing Oklahoma County Detention Center officials for alleged torture tactics, which include playing the annoyingly popular children’s song, “Baby Shark.”
NBC News reports that the federal civil rights suit describes inhumane punishments like forced stress positions for hours while the song played on loop. Civil rights attorney Cameron Spradling urges the public to take these allegations seriously rather than getting distracted by the song.
Ja’Lee Foreman Jr., Daniel Hedrick, Joseph Mitchell and John Basco filed the suit on last Tuesday for excessive force and abusive forms of discipline when they were held in the Oklahoma County jail while awaiting trial in 2019. Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, the jail trust, the board of county commissioners, are listed as defendants for failing to train and supervise jail officers, even if they had a well-documented history of abuse.
The suit claims officers removed Mitchell from his cell late at night and forced him to stand in a stress position for three to four hours with his hands cuffed behind his back. These kinds of positions can cause loss of circulation and blood clots, nerve damage, dislocated joints, chronic pain, and potential disability.
“Mitchell was forced to listen to the song over and over while physically restrained in the attorney visitation room. The volume of the song was so loud that it was reverberating down the hallways,” the court documents said. Basco and Hendrick were subjected to similarly cruel and unusual treatment. Foreman didn’t get the psychological torture but says he was also forced into stress positions, kneed, and slammed into a wall.
In October of 2020, former Oklahoma County detention officers Christian Miles and Gregory Butler and their supervisor were charged with four counts of cruelty to prisoners, conspiracy, and corporal punishment to an inmate. According to court documents, Miles and Butler used these forms of torture to “teach them a lesson because they felt that disciplinary action within the Detention Center was not working in correcting the behavior of the inmates.” Their conduct was described as “wanton, depraved and sadistic.” Both men resigned during the internal investigation.
The fact that those officers were allowed to openly mistreat inmates “exemplifies a systemic and deep-seated failure to train and supervise, with respect to the most basic aspects of correctional operations and constitutional conditions of confinement,” according to the lawsuit. It states that leadership at the jail ignored “nearly 20 handwritten complaints” about Miles and Butler mistreating inmates.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was quoted in the lawsuit for saying that a “Baby Shark” marathon under those conditions caused “undue emotional stress on the inmates who were most likely already suffering.” The practice was compared to the use of rock music in “enhanced interrogation tactics” at Guantanamo Bay. In Florida, officials also played “Baby Shark” non-stop to prevent homeless people from sleeping or setting up encampments in a public park.
Although the use of a viral children’s song seems humorous, the systemic abuse festering in jails and prisons across the country is no laughing matter. Four of the victims weren’t even convicted of a crime at the time they were detained, but no one should be subjected to torture.