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Reporter Tim Haydon determines to expose Bull Bransom, a sadistic crime lord who wields power behind corrupt political boss Steve Cardigan. Bransom's specialty is extorting money from tugboat and steamship captains, and when one of them, Captain Pederson, refuses to pay, Bransom's men toss a bomb at his boat and send him to the hospital. Bransom's men next pay a visit to Pederson at the hospital to threaten the life of his family. When police officer Terry Walsh, who is guarding Pederson's room, interferes with their plans, the thugs beat him up. Terry recognizes his assailants, and his testimony, coupled with that of Pederson, convicts Bransom and his men. Bransom is sentenced to the prison at Blackwell's Island, where Warden Stuart Granger is biding his time until retirement. Cardigan warns the warden that unless Bransom is granted special privileges, he will never see his pension. Bransom then takes over the prison, designating the hospital as his private club while he extorts money from the inmates. After Pederson is murdered for testifying, Terry begins his own investigation into the crime, and Bransom sneaks off the island to eliminate Terry himself. When no clues relating to Terry's murder can be found, Tim gets himself sentenced to the island, where he witnesses Bransom's corruption first hand. Meanwhile, Thomas McNair, a new commissioner committed to reform, has been appointed, and is informed of Tim's undercover work. When Terry's sister Sunny visits Tim on the island, Bransom becomes suspicious and arranges for Tim's murder. Learning of Bransom's plans, Tim swims ashore, where he reports to McNair that he can supply the evidence to connect Bransom with Terry's murder. Tim, McNair and his men take the island by storm and depose Bransom's reign. In the confusion, Bransom makes a dash for freedom, but Tim catches him and later helps to convict him of Terry's murder.