The new idealistic warden Henry Brubaker (Redford) wants to see for himself how bad the prison system at Wakefield State Penitentiary is and he picks a dangerous way to find out. He places himself inside the slammer as a new prisoner. Things get out of hand when the guards and prisoners running the joint are seemingly corrupt beyond reform. Trustees such as Rauch (McIntire) are brutal and sadistic in their treatment of their fellow convicts. The new warden must reveal his identity when an inmate (Freeman) locked in cruel solitary confinement takes another prisoner named Bullen (Keith) as a hostage threatening to snap his neck.
Once he lays claim to the position he shakes up the old power system and gets rid of the rotten apples that are infecting the penitentiary. Gone is the physician who charges for his services to treat the inmates, food that has been paid for stops disappearing and actually gets fed to the prisoners, trustee shacks stocked with stolen canned goods and furniture are put to the torch, and the convicts are no longer loaned out as free labor.
Especially galling is Woodward (Walsh) the roofing contractor who wants to charge for repairs to the flawed roof he installed just two years prior. Despite his progress he is stymied by the lack of cooperation he gets from his assistants (Kotto) as they turn a blind eye to the graft and corruption that goes on there. He is equally loved and hated as he shifts power away from those who had previously abused it and gives dignity to those formerly abused.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Fletcher