Emerson Palmer was a man of great ability yet he spent most of his life involved with drugs and failing to live up to his true potential. In 2010, he was arrested and charged for distribution of a narcotic. He was sentenced to 10 years in Scottsdale Penitentiary.
From his cell, he used his powerful rhetoric and organizational abilities to plan a prison revolt. Surprisingly, Palmer’s successful rebellion was not limited to Scottsdale Penitentiary. It included all the prisons in Arizona. Every prison revolted simultaneously and the jailers of Arizona were overwhelmed.
Although Palmer believed strongly in the power of reformation, he first and foremost believed that many of his fellow inmates were incarcerated over “dumb reasons” to begin with. Thus, he drew upon their anger about the injustices delivered upon them to raise up an army of recently freed prisoners. Together, they assumed leadership of the state in a coup d'etat.
Once in the governor’s office, Palmer prepared for the inevitable response from the Federal government. The National Guard was called to reclaim the capital. However, so numerous and united were the liberated prisoners that they quickly overpowered the National Guard.
Following the battle, Emerson addressed the people of Arizona, stating to them in a clear and articulate manner his plans for the state. He proposed Arizona’s succession from the Union and presented his new charter to the people. It was so well written that the people rallied behind him and Arizona became an independent nation state with Palmer as its leader. Called "the Convict State" by the mainstream media, it soon became a term of pride and its use extended to people both inside and outside of Arizona.