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Father Joe Collins, a crusading prison chaplain who is fighting to save the souls of his inmate flock, meets his nemesis in hardened convict Red Manson. The battle between the priest and the convict is fought over the soul of Johnny Gates, a young man who has been sentenced to a long stretch in prison for forging a check in order to pay his dying mother's medical bills. Father Joe, trying to rehabilitate the embittered boy, finds him work in the prison library. The padre's plan backfires, however, when Red uses a book from the library to formulate a coded message of instructions regarding a planned prison break. When Del, a stool pigeon, shows a guard a page from the book, prison officials believe that Johnny is involved in the plot. In the prison workshop, Red and the others take some guards hostage and demand their freedom in exchange for the guards' lives. When the warden refuses their ultimatum, Red shoots two guards and Father Joe enters the workshop to plead with the prisoners. Red and the father argue, and as Red is about to shoot the padre, Johnny jumps in front of the rifle, shielding the holy man from the bullets. Johnny's act of courage brings an end to the riot, while also proving that he has been rehabilitated.