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In a state penitentiary on New Year's Eve, gangster "Okay" Percy Smith knifes fellow inmate Zingo Browning, killing him. The next day, convicted lawyers Russell Whalen and Marty Crawford plead their cases before the Parole Board. Russ is released on parole, while Marty is ordered to remain behind bars until Zingo's murder is solved. Marty is in prison for fixing a jury to save an innocent man, and when Russ is released, he arranges for Russ to work with his old law partner, Jack Driscoll. The twenty-four-year-old Russ was convicted of killing a man in a car accident and is eager to make good, but Driscoll assigns him to Richard K. Mallard, a crooked politician who believes in astrology and is the boss of the city graft machine. Okay, who was let out of prison when Mallard paid a woman to pose as Okay's fainting mother, takes Russ with him when he collects money from the businessmen whom Mallard controls. When Russ sees Okay nearly kill a man for refusing to give up his city contract to Mallard, he saves the man, then quits Mallard's service. Marty's daughter Frances then gets Russ a job with her boss, manufacturer Rex Gavin, who is spearheading an anti-parole campaign in an effort to fight the recent crime wave perpetrated by released convicts. Okay then robs a bank in order to pay Mallard's aide, John Borchard, for securing the release of Russ's friend, Bobby Freeman, from prison so Okay will have a scapegoat when he needs one. After Bobby goes to live with Russ, Marty is released from prison, and when Driscoll visits, Russ rails at him for associating with Mallard. Borchard then tells Gavin he has an ex-convict working for him, and Gavin fires not only Russ and Frances, but five other good workers who also happen to be ex-convicts. When Post Courier reporter Gregory interviews Russ about the Gavin Manufacturing Company dismissals, he reveals all he knows about Mallard's operation to paper chief Earl Bigbee. After headlines implicate Mallard, Driscoll offers Russ his apartment as a hiding place. Okay and Dummy Watts, who had also been in the state prison, then force Bobby to lead them to Russ. At Driscoll's apartment, Bobby and Russ struggle to keep out Okay and Dummy, but the thugs get the door open and shoot and kill Bobby. Marty is wounded trying to escape, and Russ is blamed for the shooting and is jailed after revealing Okay and Dummy's hideout to be a barge. At the barge, the police cuff Dummy and Okay, but Okay jumps into the water and is shot at as he swims away. Joyce Daniels, Mallard's secretary who is in love with Russ, then gives Frances the records needed to incriminate Mallard and free Russ. After she is abducted by Borchard and killed, Frances hands over the evidence to Gavin, who organizes the city leaders and the governor to investigate and try Mallard. Mallard is exposed as a grafter, and Russ is exonerated and meets with the authorities to discuss a revitalization of the state parole system. Mallard is indicted, but flees bench warrant by hiding out in the mortuary of A. R. Patton, where Bobby's body is interred. With Borchard, Mallard tries to escape to Rio de Janiero in Bobby's coffin, but Russ arrives with police inspector Hamilton, who shoots Borchard and arrests Mallard. Governor Slade then appoints the chair to a new parole board, which includes a psychiatrist, and Gavin agrees to help prepare criminals for jobs after parole. Slade pardons Marty and Russ, who can now marry Frances, and Mallard gets fifty years in prison. Russ and Marty look forward to a future as "Whalen and Crawford, Attorneys at Law."