Mitchell, a hanging judge who is as iron-handed at home as he is in his courtroom, accepts an assignment as warden of a riot-plagued prison. He imposes the strictest discipline on the institution. His two children, daughter Anderson and son Ryan, on whom the rod has not been spared, take different paths. The compassionate Anderson becomes romantically involved with Stevens, a wrongfully convicted model prisoner who has become Mitchell's chauffeur. Delinquent son Ryan turns to serious crime, ending up in his father's prison as a result. Joining other prisoners in a jailbreak scheme, Ryan sees his father threatened and tries to save him. The boy dies in the process, causing the enraged Mitchell to shoot it out with his son's convict killer. His son's redemption and death bring Mitchell to a newly empathic view of his charges, and he begins a program of prison reforms.