The premise of the criminal legal system is that it is about rehabilitation - that once someone has been convicted of a crime and served their time, they rejoin society to lead a better, more productive, ‘law-abiding’ life. That’s simply not the case. We don’t have an accountability system, we have a punishment system. A system that is rooted in slavery, designed to perpetually punish and restrict that successful reentry.
The system continues to create lifelong barriers for millions of people with conviction records, denying them access to basic rights like employment, housing, and education. These collateral consequences make it impossible to move forward and get a fresh start in life, profoundly affecting individuals, families, communities and the economy.
In the United States 70 million people have a conviction record and 2.3 million of them are in New York alone. It’s likely that we all know or are connected to someone impacted.
Clean Slate NY is fighting for a new law, the Clean Slate Act, that will automatically clear a New Yorker’s conviction record once they become eligible, ensuring they are not punished beyond their sentences. R/GA partnered with Clean Slate NY to create a bold campaign that would help increase positive public support for the Clean Slate Act to get it passed through legislation.
The work unpacks a simple, provocative truth that became the through-line across each touchpoint: A conviction record shouldn’t be a life sentence. It highlighted the unjust nature of our criminal legal system and showed that formerly incarcerated people are not a separate population, they are members of our society.
The centrepiece of the campaign is a powerful mural in Brooklyn, NY, hand-painted by formerly incarcerated New Yorker Zaki Smith, that appropriates tally marks to showcase the lifetime of punishment he has faced for his conviction record and the disparity of the collateral consequences. R/GA also developed an online film and iconic social content and wild postings to further tell his story and inform the public about the harsh reality 2.3 million New Yorkers face.