A prison guard at one of California's most notoriously brutal correctional facilities during the 1920s attempts to enact more humane ways of controlling the inmates in this drama. Much of the story was filmed on location and centers the relationships between the steel-tough inmate, Steve Cochran, the ruthless, sadistic warden de Ted de Corsia and his thuggish guards and David Brian, the caring captain of the guard who to enact prison reform and promote rehabilitation programs rather than senseless violence. Steve Cochran and his followers are constantly scheming to escape while de Corsia and crew are trying to beat them into submission. To make things better, Brian, constantly defies de Corsia and as a result gets fired. This infuriates Cochran and the others and a bloody riot ensues. Though many die in the desperate melee, something good comes out of it all.