URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Inmates at the Champaign County Jail have been protesting high bonds.

Seven people started a hunger strike on Saturday, Feb. 25. Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman told us on Friday afternoon it was over.

But we also spoke with Judy Borton, whose grandson is in custody, and she said five people are still striking. 

The men in custody say their bonds are high and some have been held for more than a year. They said they haven’t spoken to their lawyers in months and don’t know how to take legal action. Heuerman said the jail doesn’t withhold any phone calls from lawyers and judges decide bonds.

Volunteers from the Champaign County Bailout Coalition helped get one inmate out on Friday morning. Volunteer Brian Dolinar said the young man is glad to be home and was happy to see his family.  

“He was on a $4,000 bond,” Dolinar said. “He could not, and his family could not afford that full amount. So, they paid half and the Champaign County Bailout Coalition paid the other half.”

Dolinar said he knows more families need help.

“They can’t afford to raise this kind of money. Two thousand dollars, they don’t have on hand. So, they are hurting. They are people, they’re not just policies on paper,” Dolinar said.

Dolinar said the Pretrial Fairness Act would have helped these people get out sooner, but it’s been held up in court.

The inmates released the following statement to the Champaign County Bailout Coalition regarding the strike:

We, the inmates of Champaign County jail, understand the following. Our Eighth Amendment rights are being violated. Bonds that are so excessive that we could never afford are quantifiably no different than having no bond at all. We do not have access to resources that can help us prepare for our defense. We are facing a constant state of oppression, depression, and anxiety from being away from our support systems. We are denied access to tablets to allow communication for contacting loved ones. 

Champaign County should allocate the money used to cage our fellow beings for other promoting prevention and education. 

To this end, we are on a hunger strike starting Saturday, February 25, 2023. No food or water until our Eighth Amendment rights are recognized. 

This is an opportunity to be pioneers in a new age of reform.