Esther joined the Foundation in 2021 as Vice President of Programs. Esther’s personal commitment has been to serve as a voice for underserved communities of color. Growing up on Chicago’s south side, Esther has been front and center to the issues that permeate communities impacted by crime, poverty, and disinvestment. She is a long-time advocate who has engaged the public in the development of effective adult criminal justice and youth justice policies.
She is the immediate past Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid, where she led the organization’s strategy, management, and fundraising. Esther is a member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission; was appointed co-chair of the Families Committee in support of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Advancing Transformation Task Force; and sits on the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce.
Previously, Franco-Payne worked for Chicago Metropolis 2020 and Metropolis Strategies where she was a staff member with the Justice and Violence Group, the predecessor to the Illinois Justice Project. Her previous employers included the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention and the Circuit Court of Cook County Family Violence Coordinating Councils.
Franco-Payne has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration.