One clinical psychologist said that “Baby Shark” was essentially torturous.
Three people have filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma County jail administrators and employees who allegedly forced inmates to listen to “Baby Shark” on repeat.
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit names as defendants Oklahoma County’s commissioners, Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, the jail’s trust, and two former corrections officers.
In their complaint, plaintiffs Daniel Hendrick, Joseph Mitchell, and John Basco claimed that repeated exposures to “Baby Shark”—a viral children’s song with a reputation for being unusually catchy—constitute “torture events.”
However, the lawsuit claims that the torture went beyond being forced to listen to “Baby Shark.” A criminal investigation carried out in the Oklahoma County jail last year found that at least four other inmates had been tied to a wall and forced to stand for hours, all while the song played loudly in the background.
Furthermore, attorneys for the three plaintiffs observe that “Baby Shark” has been used by other authorities as a deterrent—in West Palm Beach, Florida, city officials “blasted” the song outside an event center to prevent homeless people from sleeping outside.
Interestingly, the lawsuit cites the work of clinical psychologist John Mayer, who said “Baby Shark” is an “agonizing song” that can “elicit a painful reaction in the brain” with its high-pitched tones and “screechy” sounds.
“When you combine nonsensical words, insulting words, and demeaning words with bad music, you have the perfect storm for a horrible song,” Mayer wrote.
Other Oklahoma County jail guards have already faced prosecution for binding inmates and playing “Baby Shark” on a loop.
The count’s district attorney, David Prater, had earlier told The Oklahoman that he wished he could have filed more serious charges against the guards.
“It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this scenario,” Prater said. “I would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior.”
The lawsuit asserts that this sort of misbehavior is “cruel and inhumane,” creating “undue emotional stress on the inmates who were most likely already suffering.”
Two of the correctional guards, notes the complaint, resigned during an internal investigation.
One of them, identified by The Kansas City Star as former Officer Christian Miles, told investigators that he and his colleagues used “Baby Shark” and hand restraints as a way to punish inmates they felt were not being rehabilitated.
The Star notes that none of the restrained inmates seen in surveillance videos appears to be combative or otherwise violently resisting the guards’ abuse.
While the lawsuit’s allegations may seem trivial, the application of restraints and repeated exposure to loud, overwhelming music is an enhanced interrogation device that has been used against Guantanamo Bay detainees and is detailed in the C.I.A.’s torture manuals.