R/GA Powerfully Illustrates the Lifelong Barriers for People With Conviction Records

Zaki Smith mural draws attention to the Clean Slate Act

Clean Slate New York is fighting for the Clean Slate Act to be passed into law. The bill would automatically clear a New Yorker's conviction record once they're eligible. This would remove major barriers to basic necessities like employment, housing and education.

R/GA New York teamed up with Zaki Smith to create a bold mural in a high-trafficked area in Brooklyn to "Mark the Days." Smith marks the time he spent in prison next to the time he's been out of a job. The stats are staggering, and the time he's been without a job far outweighs the time he served in prison. The mural was created in less than two weeks to illustrate the unfair balance awaiting folks as they re-enter society.

Clean Slate Mural

Muse spoke with Brian Caruso, creative director of R/GA New York, about the mural, its location and the status of the Clean Slate Act.

Muse: How did the partnership with the Clean Slate NY come about?

Brian Caruso: Our global CMO, Ashish Prashar, was formerly incarcerated and has advocated for those impacted by our criminal legal system throughout his career. Clean Slate offered the best opportunity for people to transform their lives and end perpetual punishment.

Why the fast turnaround?

The New York vote was slated to take place in the first week of April. It was our intention to not only raise awareness about the impending decision, but to also raise public positive support of the issue. One in three Americans have a criminal record, restricting their ability to find housing, get an education and gain employment. That's 70 million people across the United States with a conviction, and 2.3 million of those impacted are in New York alone.

How did you meet Zaki Smith?

All formerly incarcerated people share a bond. Zaki Smith is a Clean Slate coalition leader who was released from prison 18 years ago, yet still faces the collateral consequences of having a conviction record. He is denied access to education, housing, and as the mural clearly illustrates, employment.

Clean Slate | Zaki Smith Short
What is the status of the bill?

Despite tremendous support, the bill fell out of the state budget talks, but will continue to be pressed for approval in New York. To date, five states have approved the Clean Slate Act—Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, Connecticut and Delaware—with more states considering the legislation themselves, such as Texas, Oregon, Louisiana and North Carolina.

Was the Brooklyn location for the mural selected for a reason?

With the vote happening just days after launch, we wanted it to be in the heart of a neighborhood with loud voices. "Mark the Days" highlighted the hidden life sentences that incarcerated people face long after they’ve been released from prison. To do this, we purposefully leveraged a medium typically used by people in prison: hash marks on a wall.

By recontextualizing these marks to illustrate the lifetime of injustice and imbalance he has suffered due to his conviction record, Zaki brought the spirit of prison wall inscriptions to the outside world, proving that life on the outside is often even more punishing than life on the inside.


Agency: R/GA NY
Brian Caruso, Creative Director
Marthon Pucci, Creative Director, Visual Design
James Greening, Associate Creative Director 
Leana Carvin, Designer, Visual Design
Melissa Tito, Junior Art Director
Rowan Mansfield, Associate Creative Director, Copywriting
Nathalie Tigua, Junior Copywriter
Minjie Gao, Senior Mechanical Artist
Eli Mavros, Creative Director, Post Production
Michael McLenighan, Senior Art Director
TJ Boegle, Content Creator
Justin Sirizzotti, Senior Video Editor
Pete Karam, Senior Sound Designer
Danielle Small, Content Producer
Jen Arcese, Executive Content Producer
Erica Jensen, Director, Content Studio
Jeff Skutnik, Executive Production Director
Gabby Weintraub, Producer
Justine Sarfan, Strategy Director
Meghan Lorito, Associate Director, Connections Media
Ricky Weina, Group Director, Marketing Sciences 
Yuliana Safari, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications
Lynda Blaney-Smith, Executive Director, Business Affairs
Katie Baxter, Senior Counsel, Business Operations
Daniella Cunningham, Associate Manager, Business Affairs

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.