In the middle of the night only six months before he is to be released, Leone (Sylvester Stallone), a model prisoner, is dragged from his bed in a minimum security prison and transferred to Gateway, a maximum security hellhole run by Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland). The warden has pulled every string he can to have Leone placed under his control, which is where he aims to keep him for his entire life. Previously, Leone had been one of Drumgoole's "charges" at another facility until he escaped to be at his father's death bed. Drumgoole's harshness, which forced Leone to break out two weeks away from release, prompted a newspaper report that accused the warden of brutality. Leone was sentenced to additional time, while Drumgoole was publicly humiliated and transfered to Gateway, the worst facility in the prison system. Now it's time for Drumgoole to get even. His plan is to physically and psychologically intimidate Leone until he lashes out. When he does, Drumgoole will extend his prison sentence in "hell"... or kill him.