Ballots Over Bars: An Oral History of Incarcerated People's Fight for the Right to Vote in Massachusetts

Elly Kalfus

You are invited to sit in on an imagined meeting of the MCI-Norfolk Lifers Group – come and listen to formerly incarcerated people in Massachusetts share why they care about the right to vote and how they organized for universal suffrage while in prison.

This installation was a part of HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit, showcasing multimedia projects and stories recorded by the 2017 cohort of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. 

Board of Directors of the Norfolk Lifers Group, Massachusetts, 1990s

Board of Directors of the Norfolk Lifers Group, Massachusetts, 1990s


From staging work stoppages to forming political action committees, incarcerated people have a long history of fighting to make their voices heard. Ballots Over Bars is a grassroots campaign and oral history collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people in Massachusetts who are fighting for universal suffrage. Join us to learn about incarcerated people's creative acts of resistance and explore your own relationship to voting rights and resistance.



Elly Kalfus is a penal abolitionist and improviser looking to use oral history to create collaborative storytelling projects with people impacted by the carceral state. elly co-founded Ballots Over Bars, a campaign to fight for prisoners’ suffrage in Massachusetts and abroad. elly is inspired by and grateful for the risk-taking, creativity and brilliance of incarcerated and marginalized people across the world.