Based on the book and the reflections of San Quentin Prison Warden Clinton T. Duffy, the film is episodic and rambling in nature but, unlike most prison dramas, there are touches of humor. Duffy, whose "time" at San Quentin covered over 50 years was initially appointed on a thirty-day basis, which makes him one of the best job-huggers of all time. Some of his first acts, such as abolishing the stool-pigeon system and solitary confinement and hiring a female nurse (Anne Halsey) were met with opposition and outrage in some quarters. The dominant story in the film is that of Edward Harper, a prisoner deemed incorrigible by the system until Duffy builds up trust and respect. His attitude was a bit justified as he was innocent of the charges that sent him to prison.