When orphaned Jimmy Mason is taken in by his Aunt Emma and Uncle Henry, he meets their boarder Matt Kelly, who impresses the young man with his boastful swagger and alleged political connections, although in reality he’s a bootlegger.
The boy’s life is disrupted when, as one of Kelly’s hired hands, he refuses to identify his boss during a police raid and is sentenced to three years of hard labor in reform school, where he befriends a sickly boy named Shorty, who eventually is sent to solitary confinement.
When Jimmy realizes his new pal is seriously ill and desperately needs medical attention, he escapes and goes to Kelly and Kelly’s girl friend, Peggy Gardner, for help. Peggy contacts newspaper columnist Frank Gebhardt, who is anxious to expose the conditions at the state industrial school.
The authorities find Jimmy at Gebhardt’s office, but before they can apprehend him Kelly admits his involvement in the bootlegging operation and the boy is set free. He discovers Shorty has died, victimized by a corrupt system. —Wikipedia