Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant Recipient Morgan Thompson
This summer, Morgan Thompson (2L, UCLA), was selected as one of two Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellows. The Kandel Grant is a public interest grant awarded by WLALA annually to outstanding applicants. Morgan is from a small town in Oregon and graduated from Oregon State University with degrees in Psychology and Sociology.
Through the Kandel public interest grant, Morgan spent her summer working at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles, the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive services to survivors of modern slavery and human sex and labor trafficking. She was inspired to work for CAST after working as a paralegal on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom were LGBTQ, in Cape Town, South Africa.
Morgan’s project was designed to identify and assist survivors of human trafficking. Once a woman is identified as a survivor of trafficking, she may have a complete defense to other crimes she has been charged with. The defense may even be asserted after a conviction and may result in the conviction being vacated.
As a Fran Kandel grant recipient, Morgan developed and presented a curriculum to women incarcerated at the Century Regional Detention Center to help them identify if they had been trafficked. Because of their isolation, victims of trafficking are not easily identified and do not have access to resources for assistance. Morgan created and disseminated a pamphlet that consolidated information on legal and social services available to victims of trafficking in the Los Angeles area.
Morgan recounted the following about her presentation to women inmates at the Lynwood jail:
We spent about an hour listening to questions and stories from the women. Some of them were crying and some were in awe that people cared enough to help. After the presentation, we met with about 10 women one on one who had no idea services existed to help them. Many of them appeared to be victims of human trafficking and some were currently incarcerated because of human trafficking related offenses. My supervising attorney and I took down their information to get them started on the process of receiving services.
Morgan also worked with CAST to help survivors of trafficking to clear criminal charges, provide them with criminal victim witness advocacy and with resources to assist with family law cases, education, housing and other benefits.
In Morgan’s words:
This summer has been incredibly transformative and it was made possible by WLALA sponsorship. Thank you for believing in my project and supporting me through it!