By Bryant Arroyo and Betsey Piette
In late August, environmental justice advocate and Puerto Rican political prisoner Bryant Arroyo was notified that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Pennsylvania Justice Network, arbitrarily and without prior notice, changed his Hispanic/Latino race classification to “white.” The misnamed “Justice” Network is a statewide association of cops and other policing agents.
As Arroyo notes in his initial grievance: “They want us to be reclassified as white, in order to raise the numbers in their demographics in and around the prison populations, across the state of Pennsylvania.”
His grievance requested the DOC and Justice Network “rescind their inaccurate, manufactured, false and misleading mis-identity, as being white, when I’m incontrovertibly Hispanic/Latino (race) … If I can’t be labeled as the Hispanic/Latino man that I am, then I am requesting for both the PA DOC and PA-Justice Network to relabel me as Asian — not white!!!
“… Currently, the bogus white-race change has placed me in an atypical, uncertain, dangerous and unpredictable predicament, [if] I’m forced to being celled with a white inmate, who is inconspicuously a xenophobe, bigot or has personal addictions, hang-ups, who cowardly hates Hispanics/Latinos.”
The DOC’s practice is to house prisoners by race.
Arroyo continues: “As I understand it, both PA Justice Network and PA DOC do not have any rule-making authority when it comes to race change(s). They don’t have any quasi-judicial or legislative authority, either implied or explicit, when it comes to changing an inmate(s) identifying race in the PA DOC institutions.
“There is no doubt, the PA DOC and PA-Justice Network didn’t consider the racial impact this does or will potentially have upon the Hispanic/Latino race at large. This is not only troubling but imposing, invasive, intrusive and categorically unacceptable for the PA DOC and PA-Justice Network to continue to deceive the taxpaying citizens by perpetuating a fraud about our Hispanic/Latino race being counted as white. This needs to be properly addressed and rectified by reversing the status of our race back to Hispanic/Latino, posthaste!”
As expected, Arroyo’s initial grievance was rejected. In their response the Office of Population Management (OPM) states: “The PA DOC is now consistent with all enforcement agencies in tracking race and ethnicity. Since Hispanic is not a race, it is no longer tracked that way, but it is listed under his ethnicity. Therefore, he has not lost the designation of Hispanic in our system.” The OPM labeled Arroyo’s grievance as “racist.”
Arroyo’s response to the OPM in his next-level grievance states: “The adversarial administration unconstitutionally eviscerated and deprived all Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity/race, culture and heritage across the PA DOC, by failing to provide any one of us with a choice to choose our own race, in accordance with the Census Bureau of Vital Statistics [which notes]: ‘Two-thirds of Hispanic/Latinx adults say being Hispanic is part of their racial background. When it comes to reporting their racial identity, Latinx stands out from other Americans.’
“… So, the PA DOC involuntarily reclassifies every Hispanic/Latino without any notice/memo and whitewashes our culture, and we are the ‘racist?’ PA DOC is racially divisive and didn’t anticipate for any prisoner to catch them in their insidious act of genocide towards our specific culture — Latinx. I’m white for their benefit, not mine?! What if their race was reclassified as Black. Another Jan. 6?”