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After three convicts are killed during a chain gang riot, a state senator accuses officials of covering up mistreatment of prisoners and introduces legislation to abolish chain gangs, but the legislation is defeated for lack of concrete evidence. Later, reporter Cliff Roberts, who writes for the liberal Standard , and Rita McKelvey, a reporter for the rival Chronicle , have lunch together. Although her wealthy stepfather, John McKelvey, disapproves of Cliff and his politics, Rita is in love with him, and like him, believes that certain powerful people have a vested interest in maintaining the chain gangs. To obtain evidence of abuse, Cliff arranges with his editor, "Pop" O'Donnell, to work undercover as a chain gang guard. After telling Rita that he is going on a fishing vacation, Cliff, who is using the name Jack Granger, reports to the unsuspecting Captain Duncan at Cloverdale prison. After a few days of training, Cliff is sent out with a road gang. Watching the gang at work is Harry Cleaver, a representative of the construction company. Cliff witnesses him offering to pay the guards an inducement if the convicts finish the road ahead of schedule. Later, Cliff is forced to whip convict Roy Snead to prove that he is not soft on the men. Ashamed of his actions, Cliff sneaks out during the night and brings Snead some food. After the Standard advertises their expose of chain gangs, Rita overhears McKelvey discussing the situation with her editor, Lloyd Killgallen, and Cleaver. When she learns from their conversation that her father owns the Chronicle and illegally uses convict labor on his construction projects, Rita quits her job and joins the Standard staff. The paper runs Cliff's article, accompanied by photographs taken with a camera hidden in a cigarette lighter. While discussing the article with an angry McKelvey, Cleaver spots a photograph of Rita and Cliff and, recognizing Cliff as "Granger," the new chain gang guard, declares that he must be the spy. McKelvey telephones Duncan with the information, and he beats up Cliff with the help of the other guards. Meanwhile, Snead escapes from the chain gang. Leaving one guard behind to watch Cliff, the others pursue Snead. Cliff then overcomes his guard and runs away. Duncan shoots the fleeing Cliff and leaves him for dead. Snead discovers Cliff, and remembering his kindness, cleans his wound and helps him to a nearby farmhouse before continuing his escape. Later, Snead is killed and blamed for Cliff's death. With the help of the woman who lives on the farm, Cliff recovers. Unknown to him, however, she recognizes his uniform and innocently asks the doctor to report his location to the prison. Cliff learns what she has done and escapes just ahead of the guards. Once Cliff returns home safely, the corrupt officials are arrested, and McKelvey is indicted.