After a fight in a nightclub ends with the death of a prominent politician's son, Joe Hufford is arrested and charged with murder. Although the district attorney, George Knowland, advises Joe to hire a good criminal lawyer, Joe decides to stick with Vernon Bradley, the corporation lawyer sent by his employer. Knowland, who believes the death to be accidental, suggests that Bradley have Joe plead guilty to manslaughter. Bradley refuses and, after the case goes to trial, the lawyer's lack of experience in criminal law results in a guilty verdict for Joe, who is sent to prison. After six months, Joe joins a group of prisoners who are planning an escape. Joe's cellmate, Malloby, warns him that Ponti, one of the prisoners involved in the plan, had betrayed other convicts during an earlier attempt. Nonetheless, Joe is determined to escape to visit his ailing father. Before the escape, Joe learns that his father has died, and frustrated, starts a fight with a guard. Joe is sentenced to solitary confinement and thus misses the escape. As Malloby had predicted, Ponti reveals the escape plans to the prison authorities, and all the escapees are killed. Meanwhile, Knowland is given the job of prison warden. Ponti demands that Knowland save him from the angry convicts and release him from prison as Captain Douglas, the brutal head guard, had promised. Knowland agrees only to transfer him to another prison, and until that is possible, offers him a room in the warden's quarters. Knowland also takes an interest in Joe's case and has him transferred from the prison laundry to a position as his chauffeur. At Knowland's suggestion, his daughter Kay befriends Joe and tries to restore his dignity. Meanwhile, Malloby and some of the other convicts plot to kill Ponti. Malloby, who works as Knowland's butler, is to carry out the killing, but insists that Joe should not be involved. By accident, however, Joe is waiting for the warden in his office and sees Malloby leave the scene of the murder. When Joe will not reveal the name of the killer, Knowland warns him that he will be accused of the crime. Despite this threat, Joe continues to keep silent, and Knowland sends him to solitary confinement. After Joe is slipped a knife with which to kill Douglas, Malloby contrives to be sent to solitary and then uses the knife to kill Douglas in retaliation for returning him to prison for a minor parole violation. Before he is gunned down by the guards, Malloby confesses to Ponti's murder. Shortly after that, Joe is paroled and receives Knowland's permission to call on Kay after he finds employment.