When Maggie Turner (J.D. ’24) moved from South Carolina to Georgia with her husband and three kids in 2019, she saw a need. Turner was previously a case manager for a non-profit specialized in helping survivors of human trafficking in South Carolina. While trafficking may be just as prevalent in Georgia, it doesn’t seem to garner the same attention.
“My mom showed me a newspaper article about these prostitution stings that had happened in LaGrange where the women were arrested,” Turner said. “I remember thinking that it was likely the result of human trafficking, but law enforcement might not be aware of that. So that was the moment I thought, ‘I need to bring some training and education here.’”
It wasn’t long after that Turner incorporated Illuminate Justice, a 501(c)3 focused on education and prevention of human trafficking. Her goal is to also create a legal clinic because she saw time and time again the legal system fail survivors.
“The hardest part about being a case worker was seeing the women never get legal representation they deserved,” she said. “Sometimes they wouldn’t even meet their public defender until the morning of court.”
Realizing that legal need is what propelled Turner to attend Georgia State Law’s part-time program. She was planning to wait a year but decided to start right away when the pandemic meant she would be able to take more classes online her first year and wouldn’t have to travel every day from LaGrange.
“I remember thinking it was crazy to go to law school,” she said. “I have 3 kids, I’m 34, and I was working full time. But I got my results back from the LSAT in May, I got my acceptance in June and started in August. I just realized it was a one-time opportunity and I needed to jump on it.”
Now in her second year at law school, Illuminate Justice is off the ground. She’s doing prevention trainings for youth, giving them the tools to know what trafficking looks like. The non-profit is also now in a partnership with the Troup County Juvenile Court. She says her supportive board of directors is helping with fundraising to be on track to expand with the legal clinic once Turner passes the bar.
“We would like to be able to do all the major needs of survivors,” Turner said. “Typically, it’s criminal record relief and a lot of family law. Sometimes they’re married to the people that exploited them. There can be custody battles if their kids were taken away from them. There is also immigration law with labor trafficking.”
She’s grateful for making the decision to attend Georgia State and the opportunities it’s afforded her, such as getting to learn from professors like Jonathan Todres, who extensively researches trafficking and published “Preventing Child Trafficking: A Public Health Approach”. She’s hoping what she’s learning in law school mixed with her background in counseling will set her up to make the greatest impact with Illuminate Justice.
“There’s a growing number of resources for human trafficking survivors, but for whatever reason across the board the legal piece is still missing,” Turner said. “These women who’ve been through that deserve to get as much of that help as we can get them.”
Written by Mara Thompson