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Jobless Betty Andrews is arrested in a department store and wrongfully accused of theft. Although Mary Ellis, a prominent attorney and social worker, comes to Betty's defense, she is unable to overcome the circumstantial evidence and Betty is sentenced to one year in the Curtiss Home of Correction. At the reformatory, Betty discovers that chief matron Miss Brackett rules with an iron hand, and that she is aided by inmates "The Duchess," Frankie Mason, Nita Lavore and other stooges. In exchange for their tale-bearing, the Duchess and others are given special favors by Brackett. Brackett's inhumane treatment eventually drives one of the girls, Gracie Dunn, to suicide, and when Betty finds the body, she is forced to take an oath of secrecy under threat of death by the Superintendent and Brackett, who list "pneumonia" as the official cause of Dunn's death. Fearing for her life, Betty plans to escape by selling the story of the suicide to reporter Jim Brent, and using the money to pay Frankie to smuggle her out. Jim gets the story from Betty by posing as her visiting attorney, and when the papers print it a scandal ensues. Meanwhile, Frankie doublecrosses Betty, who is punished for her escape attempt with solitary confinement. The story of Dunn's suicide soon results in the appointment of reformer Mary Ellis as head matron. Mary improves the conditions at the institution and introduces many new reforms, including self-government and a test policy that will allow ten girls to leave the reformatory for the Thanksgiving holiday. Angry because the new system has robbed them of their special privileges, the Duchess and Frankie kidnap Betty to prevent her from returning to the Curtiss Home on time. However, when Jim learns of their treachery, he comes to Betty's rescue and saves both Mary's regime and Betty. All ends happily as Betty is granted a pardon and leaves the institution to marry Jim.