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Lawsuit says man with disability denied shower for 150 days at St. Louis Justice Center

What he ended up with instead, according to the lawsuit, was a basin and a rag. He uses water from the sink to clean the parts of his body he can reach
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — A paraplegic detainee at the St. Louis City Justice Center has been denied a shower for five months, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Anthony Tillman, 39, has been incarcerated at the Justice Center since Oct. 5. Tillman has been in the second-floor infirmary along with about eight people in COVID-19 quarantine because he uses a wheelchair and there are no rails or ramps in the rest of the jail.

The lawsuit said Tillman told a nurse that he would need a wheelchair-accessible shower or someone to help him shower due to his condition. He said the nurse told him there were no such showers in the facility and that the jail did not offer staff assistance with showering.

What he ended up with instead, according to the lawsuit, was a basin and a rag. It said he uses room-temperature water from the sink to clean the parts of his body that he can reach.

The lawsuit says the Justice Center is violating Title II of the ADA by failing to provide an accessible shower or assistance with bathing.

Tillman has a bullet lodged in his back after a 2017 shooting that left him unable to walk. He was jailed at the Justice Center in February and fell and cut himself while trying to use a shower that had increased accessibility, but did not provide all the features he needed. 

Tillman contracted sepsis due to that fall and still suffers from the condition. The lawsuit said the current showering conditions have left him "at grave risk of infection" because he is unable to reach many parts of his body.

The lawsuit was filed on Tillman's behalf by ArchCity Defenders, Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Law Legal Clinics, the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Rights Behind Bars after Tillman said his grievances and requests went unanswered for months.

The lawsuit seeks to get an accessible shower constructed for Tillman to use and to have a staff member assigned to help him shower while the new shower is being built. It also seeks an unspecified monetary award as compensation for damages.

5 On Your Side has reached out to the Mayor's office for comment but has not heard back.

This is not the first complaint about the conditions at the Justice Center. Last month, detainees broke windows and set fires in a riot at the facility. Some said conditions in the facility led detainees to riot, but city leaders disagreed.

Complaints outlined in police memos regarding the city’s downtown jail obtained by 5 On Your Side cited faulty locks, broken cameras, unmanned checkpoints, "multiple" overdoses, several uprisings, delays in moving prisoners, at least one inmate kept unnecessarily in isolation and unresponsive Department of Corrections administrators, among other issues.

RELATED: Exclusive: Internal memos show longstanding problems at St. Louis jail