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Spring ’23 Valedictorian Advocates for Access to Books and Education for People Incarcerated

Jacqueline Spreadbury

Spring 2023 valedictorian Jacqueline Spreadbury was invited to present at the Illinois Reading Council’s annual convention last month in Springfield in which she received a UIC Law travel grant to cover her traveling expenses. The convention topic was “reading,” and the majority of presentations were from teachers or librarians discussing the best reading strategies or the current attack on books. Jacqueline took a different approach.

Focusing on reading being a human right for everyone, including those who are incarcerated, she presented research gathered during an independent study course with UIC Law Professor Steve Schwinn. Her research highlighted FCI Manchestar’s book policy that banned all books except those ordered from a single mail-order catalogue. Professor Schwinn helped Jacqueline research all the potential First Amendment violations this policy ensued.

“I wasn’t sure if my presentation would even be considered because it was quite different than the other presentations. So, I was excited that I was accepted and able to bring such a unique and different topic to the conference.”

In the presentation, Jacqueline detailed the various issues regarding acquiring books in prisons. Many institutions have book bans in place or limit the number of books an inmate can have. Others charge high prices for books, which most cannot afford.

Jacqueline is no stranger to the issues regarding reading accessibility in prisons. As a member of Midwest Books for Prisoners for over a decade, the organization has worked to provide books free of charge to those incarcerated so that they may reach their educational goals. Jacqueline now helps run the nonprofit.

More About the Spring ‘23 Valedictorian Heading link

Jacqueline Spreadbury

Jacqueline Spreadbury is proud to graduate with a concentration in critical race and gender studies from UIC Law (especially when these studies are under attack) and is looking forward to using her degree to advocate for social justice. Jacqueline wants to work in environmental defense, reproductive justice, fair housing, constitutional civil rights, or as a public defender.

She is grateful to Dean McMurtry-Chubb for cultivating space for students to critically examine the way laws uphold structural inequalities, so we can dismantle these systemic oppressions and build a more equitable community. Jacqueline is also thankful to those who were committed to helping her become a better lawyer, including NLG Chicago for being great mentors, friends, and movement lawyers; the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Planned Parenthood for wonderful externship experiences; and the Diversity Scholarship Foundation, the Baum Family Foundation, the Darlene and Robert Walker Foundation, the Edward T. Lee Scholarship Foundation, and the Roger’s Behavioral Health Foundation.

Before attending UIC Law, Jacqueline earned her master’s in chemistry from Governors State University and was a high school teacher in Chicago. When Jacqueline is not studying, which is rare these days, she likes to tap dance, garden, and spend time with her pets.