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Jailed Man Denied Proper Bathing For 160 Days Must Have Wheelchair-Accessible Shower Access, Judge Rules

A federal judge ordered the City of St. Louis to “provide physical assistance and equipment to allow” and provide Anthony Tillman access to a “handicapped-accessible shower” on Wednesday. 

By Dorian Geiger
Judge Orders Jail To Provide Wheelchair-Accessible Shower

An incarcerated Missouri man with a disability who hasn't properly bathed for more than 160 days will be “immediately” given a wheelchair-accessible shower in jail, a judge ruled this week.

Anthony Tillman, 40, is at “risk of “irreparable harm,” after being denied the ability to shower for nearly half a year in pre-trial detention at a St. Louis city jail, according to federal court documents.

Tillman, who uses a wheelchair following a 2017 shooting, hasn’t showered since Oct. 5, 2020, his lawyers said. The St. Louis City Justice Center, where Tillman is being detained, doesn’t have a functioning wheelchair-accessible shower, according to a civil lawsuit filed against the city and jail officials this month.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ronnie L. White granted Tillman’s motion for a temporary restraining order against the City of St. Louis and the City Justice Center.

“The court finds that Tillman has presented evidence of the threat of irreparable harm,” White wrote in court filings. “Defendants claim that Tillman has been provided the opportunity to bathe either in a washbasin or in the handicapped-accessible shower. These options, however, still present the threat of irreparable harm to Tillman.” 

The ruling now paves the way for the former auto worker's first shower in months. Tillman had been using a bucket, rag, and lukewarm water to clean himself since his arrest last year, according to his lawyers. The conditions he's been kept in, they say, are also a direct violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the ruling, Tillman must be immediately relocated to a new cell with a wheelchair-accessible shower in the jail’s medical unit. Medical staff will also now assist in transferring Tillman to and from the shower and with “washing inaccessible areas of his body.”

In the coming weeks, Tillman’s new cell will be subject to an inspection by an independent qualified professional, along with Tillman’s lawyers, to oversee “whether the shower is wheelchair accessible and what, if any additional support” may be required.

The City Justice Center must also provide physical assistance and equipment to allow Tillman to bathe in the wheelchair-accessible shower in the jail’s medical unit, the order states.

Anthony Tillman 1

Prior to the ruling, Tillman had filed a number of grievances with the jail related to the facility's wheelchair-accessible shower, along with other alleged instances of maltreatment. 

"Just because we’re incarcerated, we’re still human,” Tillman told Oxygen.com from jail last week. “[We] shouldn’t be treated inhumane."

Tillman said his body was covered in open sores and that his toenails were falling out after months of being unable to bathe himself. His lawyers had previously said he was at “grave risk of infection.”

“Something needs to be done,” Tillman added. “It’s just getting swept under the rug."

During a previous incarceration at the jail, Tillman said he slipped, fell, and cut himself while attempting to use the facility’s current shower for prisoners who have disabilities. He ultimately contracted sepsis, his lawyers said, and refused to put himself at risk using the same shower again. 

“The evidence supports a finding that Tillman will be further injured if he is denied the opportunity to properly bathe his entire body or if he could suffer another fall without proper assistance and equipment,” White wrote.

Tillman also said the shower’s folding seat wasn’t able to support his weight. 

“I was provided a shower that was not accessible for someone with my disability,” Tillman wrote in the court documents. “To use the shower I had to roll my wheelchair to the shower, attempt to sit up from the wheelchair holding the one bar, maneuver with one hand on the bar and the other hand pushing down the fold-down seat, and effectively allow my body to fall down into the seat."

Tillman is awaiting trial on domestic assault, child endangerment, property damage, and gun charges, court filings show. He's pleaded not guilty, according to his defense attorney, Chelsea Leigh Harris. Tillman had a counsel status court hearing scheduled on Friday.

The next court date in Tillman’s civil case is scheduled for March 30, filings show.

The City of St. Louis didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the case on Friday.

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