Donnell Saadiq Palmer

“The Move” Part 1

“Lockdown” Wednesday 9:15am.

“Yo this must be a drill?”

Ya think? Naw man they about to transfer us across the street.

“Naw, Diq not on a Wednesday, what they gonna do move us over the weekend or start today and tomorrow, then chill for the weekend and start again Monday?”

Nope they said as soon as they start they ain’t gonna stop until their done. So that means they’re gonna go over the weekend on both shifts!

“We almost at B-block, listen Diq if this thing is really happening, I’ll see you on the other side Insha-Allah.”

Insha Allah, Lil homie, and yes from the looks of it, it’s going down, so maintain, cause ain’t nothing we can do about it, but try to make this as smooth as possible, because these clowns expect us to get crazy, so they can act nutty! It ain’t no coincidence that they now carry pepper spray after all these years!


As Salaamu Alaikum. Wa Alaikum As Salaam… Just like I thought the “Transition” has begun. Wednesday July 11, 2018 the shut down of Graterford Prison has begun. Some have been dreaming of this day, while many dreaded the end of an era, the end of the FORD! Contrary to popular belief, over the last 22, 23 years Graterford has slowly evolved from the infamous “GRATERFORD” a place that caused the toughest of men to tremble at mere mention of the name.. To a place mostly known these days for its Organization lead programs like Inside/Out, Fact, Real Street Talk, Scholarship Fund “Education over Incarceration” and many, many more! Don’t get me wrong it was still jail, but Graterford was far from the place you still here stories about, these days when people mention the Ford. They talk about the the positive work coming from behind the wall, Right 2 Redemption/Cadbi, The Gray Panthers fighting for change in legislation. HB135, SB942, SB293. UCan’s Fact program bringing families together, by helping father, grandfather, connect with their children. It was nothing to walk down the hallway and see politicians coming to see us daily, students and professors from all over the world came to Graterford. We dispelled almost all of the stereotypical misconception people came in with. We’ve hosted events such as The American Society Of Criminologist, Old School/New School Callout which was simulcast from Philadelphia Community College to name a few..

I seen many men go home and come back, but I’ve seen more go home and never come back, and I attribute a lot of that to the work that we do and have done over the last 2 decades at Graterford. I would never be able to speak about a warehouse for humans in this way, but I feel compelled to defend the truth! As much as I hate being locked up, period! I can’t sit back and allow someone to mislead people into thinking, that the ford was still F’d up and horrible and needed to be torn down. A quarter of that money could’ve been spent on refurbishment of the old building and the rest could’ve or should’ve went to better schools so places like this wouldn’t be needed in the future, but yet and still they pour absurd amounts of money into projects like this and we all know why. I wonder how much this transition is going to cost the state and its taxpayers during this transition? I mean you have food, room, board and pay for more than a thousand employees, some getting double and triple time.

So what’s next, this new warehouse, the state of the art facility with central air, that cost $350 million, oh my bad that was the starting cost, try more like $800.000.000, yeah damn near a billion dollars, and guess what, it’s not finished, but they pushed us in here, due to a state budget deadline on July 19th. Staff isn’t even trained properly, they’re shooting from the hip, they’re just as confused as us. Where are they starting at? Are they gonna do kitchen workers first? Death Row and the holes (Rhu)? Some are still in denial until they realize we didn’t come out for lunch. 2 Boxes and a Foot Locker or 4 Boxes, only exception is for active legal cases, one extra box for that maybe two. This has been hammered into our brains since the start of build. 2 boxes and a footlocker? Can you imagine decades of someone’s life fitting into a footlocker and 2 boxes 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years of incarceration summed up in a few boxes. We pack, throwing away more than we are actually packing, some having already downsized, many haven’t, hoping that the move would never happen or the building would sink into the ground or something! Mostly because of all the delays and setbacks many of us thought it wouldn’t happen, but here we are…

Thursday morning after a whole day in and not seeing any movement on the block aside for medical and officers shuffling around.

At around 9, 9:30, I hear the slight rumble of a cart while I lay in the bed. The rumble getting stronger, I figure they’re getting ready to pass out breakfast. Voices start to fill the air, unfamiliar voices all talking in unison, doors opening but not in the cadence of mealtime during lockdowns. Hold up let me see what’s going on? I raise up and walk the door, and what do I see blue carts and men in black sprinkle through the block at varies cell doors. Wow, I say to myself here we go! Now the question really comes to mind. What’s next? How are they going to treat us? What can we keep? “Look at all these hillbillies, from the mountains!” somebody screams out their cell. I wonder how many are there? There were 400 carts stored in the shops for the last 4 or 5 months and it looks like every cert team member has their own cart, so it must be about 400 of them, I surmise. At the time we were locked down there were about 470 men on B-Block, I wonder how long this is gonna take?

Friday, more of the same thing, from about 8:30 in the morning until about 6pm

Men in black walk by pushing a blue cart, minutes later a friend, comrade or someone you don’t know comes pass pushing a cart. The only difference today is now at around 5pm 2 people with Black Polo Shirts and Tan khakis are walking around to random cells telling people, “Get ready they are moving in an hour or leaving tomorrow.” Back & forth they go but never coming over to our side. Myself, Sam, Charles and Bobby are 6 cells apart. I holla out to Sam my neighbor on my left “Yo, you see this shit?”

“Yeah, I’m watching them, they ain’t even looked this way!”

“I was wondering if they were gonna keep moving us on the weekend & from the sound of it they are, he just told 13 cell you’re leaving in the morning.”

“Yo they serious about getting us in there before the nineteenth, if they moving on a Saturday & Sunday!”

Saturday, still here same thing

Men in black blue carts, black & tans walking around informing. Wait now there’s more black tans on the block. “A, Sam what did she say?”

“She’s asking people if they are alright?”

“HELL NO! WE AIN’T ALRIGHT,WE READY TO GO!” I yelled out. Damn, did I say that? Yep, after 3½ days of unpacking and packing my TV and fan. Literally living out of a box, washing up twice a day in the sink! Oh yeah, how could I forget throughout this whole ordeal we were denied showers! Despite the fact that policy states “after 72 hours of total confinement, inmates are to have controlled showers…” So yes, we were ready to get this behind us, the block seems to be empty, almost all the cells in my direct line of sight are empty, abandoned, lights on doors ajar, with no signs of life. The silence on B-Block is amazing for a Saturday night, I begin to wonder how many of us are left on the entire block, better yet the entire jail, penitentiary, prison, institution! Anxiety begins to creep in, anticipation of what’s to come, what’s next?? Officer walks by doing count, “A, my man, how many of us are left on the block?”

“30 something over here & about 100 in the entire building.” Damn 2500 in 4 days. That’s an average of like 600 a day, property and all, I wonder how they’re processing our stuff, if they are moving this fast?


“We gotta be out today bro,” I say to my homie Sam next door as they pass out breakfast bags.

“No doubt, I’m ready to be out! This jawn is empty! I ain’t never think I would see the fort like this!” Sam said shaking his head… “Yo they about to pass out Lunch, if we still here for dinner we are gonna be stuck until tomorrow.” Our lunch comes and I ask the c/o what it look like for us? He says “Ya’ll should be outta here soon.” Today? “Today!” An hour so later six blue carts are coming towards the back of the block. Keep in mind we’ve been locked in for 5 days so we don’t know how many people are left up front if at all. 2 carts go right by me and stop at Vic and Charles’s doors 2 Stop at the steps and 2 more are coming this way. The first one stops in front of my door and the c/o says “Palmer you…”I didn’t even let him get it out, I said “yeah let’s get this shit over with.” Frustrated by the whole process, Frustrated by the fact of all the monies spent for this could’ve been put to better use, if the right people we’re in place at the right time. People like Gov.Wolf and Philly’s D.A. Larry Krasner came along a little to late. There the true progressive thinkers, this dude Wetzel is a fraud and all about claiming the latter! He has and will say whatever he has to, to get the desired results then it’s business as usual. I personally believe that if Gov.Wolf was in office when the conversation about building a new jail came up, being as though he is a businessman first, I think he would’ve made a better business decision and I wouldn’t be writing this piece.

Sam’s cart is there as well, all four of us are loading at the least 23 years of our lives into these blue 5 by 3 by 5 foot carts. Electronics included! All loaded up one by one we exit Charles and Vic leaves first all of our door tags say JB so we know we’re going to the same block, unit, or pod whatever they’ll be calling them. Big Curt leaves too as they make their way up front. Me and Sam follow a few seconds later. As we pass from under the bridge Wavy is coming down the steps with his property. “Damn, cuz I thought you was gone already,” I say to Wavy as he’s putting his stuff in the cart.

“I Thought ya’ll was gone too.” He replied laughing, “is anybody still back there?”

“Yeah, Black was hollering out the cell when we was loading up, I think he is the last person back there, anybody besides you up here?”

“Yeah I think I heard Lil Geater’s voice.” Wavy replied. We started towards the front of the block, navigating through trash & debris left behind by everybody that already left. For some strange reason I can see how beat up the block really looks. Paint peeling off the walls with rust colored water stains running down them. Things you may have never really paid attention too really stands out as I take one last look at the dull olive & forest green peeling paint. With years of layers peeking through. I’ve been down for almost 23 years and 22 of them has been spent right here. Damn, I say to myself as I push the cart 21, 22, 23. 21 when I got locked up, 22 years in Graterford, 23 straight years incarcerated. “A…!” A voice yells out, breaking my thoughts.

“Look up Diq,” Wavy shouts, “It’s Geater.”

“What the fuck! They gonna just leave me here? How many are left in the back?” He shouts out the door.

“Black, we think is the only one left back there!” I shout back. Laughing he screams “don’t let them forget us!” The cert team even had to laugh at that, and one of them shouted back, “We’ll be back!”

BEFORE                                                                 AFTER


I wonder, I wonder if somebody would have asked me, “Did I think I would ever do time in Jail on July 10, 1995?” I would have emphatically told them “Hell No!” I would’ve said “Hell No” while knowing that I was carrying a deadly weapon in my waistband at that very moment. Why, or how could I think that? I’ll tell you the logic of a 21 year old child. The logic of an underdeveloped brain. A brain that was damaged from years of substance abuse, Marijuana, Alcohol, Angel Dust, Codeine, Nicotine.. Am I making an excuse for taking a Life? No, I’m telling a story of how easy it is to think one way and act another especially when your thought process is flawed, flawed because of your lack of true rationale. The rationale of a child in the form of a man. When I reached the ripe old age of 27, I was sitting in my cell on my birthday, awaiting the arrival of my mother, not for a celebration of the day I was born, but more of an acknowledgement of my existence. Her only child. All at once it hit me harder than ever before, the gravity of my situation, the seriousness of the last five years.

It’s was like being awoke from a dream, and all I could say to myself was what the f#$! how, why, was I trippin is this shit real? It was very real and it was no dream or nightmare, this was my reality and would be my reality for many years to come. If somebody would have asked me on that very day, April 9th, 2001, 6 years after my 21st and last birthday free, “did I think I would ever do time in jail?” I would’ve still said “Hell No” even though I was sitting in a cell and not a bedroom… Why? Perspective! My perspective on life at 21 was totally different by the time I turned 27.


Now I set here 21 years later, with the light at the end of the tunnel getting dimmer, I wonder what if. What if Eric and I did look the other way, he would still be here and I would still be out there. What about his children, I believe there were 3 of them I knew one Jawan I played with him, I held him… He should be 22 now. I wonder about his Mom, the pain I saw in her eyes, the loss they expressed to me… What about Craig his little brother, did he ever graduate from Temple? He should be 42 like me now, I wonder… I wonder where my sons’ life would be right now if July 11th 1995 never happened, would he still be struggling to find himself at 23 if I was there to mold him and guide him through life, in away my father failed to do…

I wonder if my little brother Reggie would still be here instead of being buried with his uncle Rock, I wonder about the pain I still see in my Moms eyes every time she visits me… I wonder about forever being judge by the events that took place that sad day, knowing it doesn’t represent who I am today. All my life I heard the saying “everything happens for a reason.” This maybe true, but I often wonder will the true reason for what took place on July 11th, 1995 ever be revealed…

I write this in the memory of Eric Wiggins, my Little Brother Reggie McNeil, and his Little Brother Stephon McNeil, my Nana Mrs. Patricia Anne Palmer and to the countless men, women and children who are no longer with us. To all the families affected by my actions and the actions of others, I humbly ask for not only forgiveness, but understanding as well.

To My Mother Ms. Chandra Palmer thanks for always being you and for always loving me as I will always love you…

May Peace and Blessings be upon You,

Donnell Saadiq Palmer 2016. I wonder…



What’s up son
I see you but you don’t see me.
Damn my bad,
this ain’t about me seeing you or you seeing me.
I’m not talking about the sea
that separates a piece of land from another.

This is about the sea of deep misery
that has us locked up, boxed up,
like cargoing boats that floats over the seas to lands
That seems like make-believe to me

​I can’t be with you
to hold you and mold you
like a captain and his first mate.​​

But at any rate,

I can try to guide and steer you
from falling into the sea of never-ending abyss.

No fish no coral no islands but plenty of salt
that comes from the water that leaks from the eyes of those
who secretly shed tears out of fear of never escaping the Abyss.

The abyss I’ll say it again
cos it’s not your friend.
This water is not blue or green
that seems to come to life when you enter the moon like movie screens
with beautiful colors that shake and shimmer as the sun and moon illuminates every glimmer.

Naw, son, this is the Black sea,
the deep dark place where
you don’t wanna be.
Where everyone looks and feels like me
full of pain and despair in this
sea of stale air.
Take heed to my words
or this will be your destiny.
Because the road you’re heading down
has already got the best of me.

So I hope you see what I didn’t see
and follow the Blue sea
and not the Black sea that has
swallowed me.


Life! Life without the possibility of parole…
This is our sentence, this is our punishment.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’ve been through.
It’s about what you are accused of, well now what you did…
Forget about change, forget about growth, forget about transformation.
Forgiveness is not about forgetting.
And with this sentence you may never be forgiven.
and what you were accused of, well now what you did,
will never be forgotten.
What about a second chance?
What about change?
What about growth and maturity?
What about Redemption?

Are we irredeemable?
Are we absent of any redeemable qualities?
Does the fact that you haven’t committed a violent act since that sad day,
15, 20, 25, or 30 years ago count?
Does the fact that you have educated yourself,
completed all your prescribed programming count?
Does the fact that you have given back to your communities,
been charitable in society count?
Does the fact that you’ve saved lives and changed lives count?
You can do everything in the world to help change and educate,
but one fact will always remain you will never see the light of day,
because you have life without the possibility of parole…
Death By Incarceration, is your destination…

D.Saadiq Palmer 23 served, 1995

Continue the conversation…

Smart Communications/PA DOC Donnell Palmer, DA8230
St. Petersburg, Fla. 33733

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