OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A federal lawsuit has been filed following alleged abuse at the Oklahoma County Jail.
In October of 2020, two former Oklahoma County detention officers and their supervisor were charged with four counts of cruelty to prisoners, corporal punishment to an inmate, and conspiracy.
According to court documents, former detention officers Christian Miles and Gregory Butler are accused of taking at least five inmates from their cells late at night and handcuffing them with their arms behind their backs in an attorney booth and forcing them to remain standing.
In some cases, the inmates were forced to listen to ‘Baby Shark’ for up to four hours at a time.
Court documents state Miles and Butler used the booth 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.”
The documents also state Miles told investigators that “the inmates often ‘pissed off’ Butler which evidence suggests led to those inmates being taken out of their cells/pods and mistreated.”
Their supervisor, Christopher Hendershott, allegedly learned about the mistreatment but did nothing to help the inmates or discipline the officers. He allegedly ignored 20 hand written inmate complaints as well. His alleged inaction allegedly resulted in “the Officers continuing to mistreat inmates where at least an additional six (6) inmates were physically victimized.”
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, which still had control of the jail at the time, sent KFOR the following statement in 2020 after the arrests:
“The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office learned about allegations of detention officers being cruel to inmates on December 6, 2019. When the allegations were made an internal investigation was launched, and the detention officers were immediately removed from having contact with inmates per order of Sheriff PD Taylor. During the preliminary stages of the investigation all three detention officers under investigation either quit or resigned from their positions by the end of December2019.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office took immediate action to investigate this incident while the jail was under our operational control, and completely support the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s decision to file charges on these former jail employees. Public trust is earned and criminal behavior cannot be tolerated by those who are sworn to protect inmates who are in their custody.
The probe into this misconduct was investigated by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) which took over operations of the jail on July 1, 2020. Jail Trust investigators presented charges to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office on October 2, 2020. Requests for information regarding details surrounding their investigation will need to be made to either the Jail Trust, or the District Attorney’s Office.”
Now, a lawsuit has been filed in the case with several former inmates suing the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, the former detention officers, and the Board of County Commissioners.
The lawsuit detailed several instances where inmates were taken from their cells, insulted, handcuffed, forced to be in a ‘standing stress position’ in a booth and listen to ‘Baby Shark’ on repeat at a very loud volume for hours on end.
“This history of mistreatment was well known to supervisors at the Jail, but no action was taken to stop the conduct and no reasonable measures were taken to alleviate the risk of harm to detainees like Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that the actions by Miles, Butler, and Hendershott were “open, obvious and repeated. Yet, no one from Oklahoma County/OCSO/OCCJA stepped in to take remedial action. This 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.”
The plaintiffs are asking for $75,000 in the lawsuit.