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Short-term Deprivation of Toilet Paper Does Not Violate Detainee’s Rights

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that denial of toilet paper to a pretrial detainee for a short period of time does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling reversed a district court’s order which had concluded the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity.

James M. Stickley brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was incarcerated at Arkansas’ Faulkner County Detention Center (FCDC). The district court granted the defendants qualified immunity on several claims, but not as to Stickley’s claim that they had refused to give him adequate toilet paper in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (as Stickley was a pretrial detainee, his claims were brought under the Fourteenth rather than the Eighth Amendment).

From January to June 2010, Stickley was held at the FCDC awaiting trial. Pursuant to FCDC policy, he was issued only one roll of toilet paper per week; however, each week he exhausted his allotment before the week’s end. His requests for additional toilet paper were denied as were his grievances. After his weekly roll of toilet paper was depleted, Stickley had to shower each time following a bowel movement. He often had to wait up to thirty minutes before being allowed to take a shower.

The Eighth Circuit concluded that “the amount of toilet paper afforded him, the limited time in which he went without toilet paper, and his ability to attend to his hygiene needs at those times” negated a finding that Stickley’s constitutional rights were violated by the denial of additional toilet paper. The Court of Appeals noted that the facts alleged in this case were less severe than in Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232 (7th Cir. 1988), which involved a deprivation of toilet paper for five days.

Accordingly, the district court’s denial of qualified immunity to the defendants was reversed. See: Stickley v. Byrd, 703 F.3d 421 (8th Cir. 2013).

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