The movie opens with a teenager, Eric in a police van. He is lost in thought, looking sad. He is walked into the prison facility and searched before he was taken into a room to undress. His crevices were examined afterward for contraband before he was handed his prison clothing and sent into the cells. The procedures appear very strict here and the prison looks doubly secure.
Alone, he lays both hands on his head dejected. He quickly gets to work fashioning a weapon out of his shaving stick and toothbrush. He broke the shaving stick, picks out the blade and affixes it to the edge of his toothbrush then hides his new weapon before settling into his new quarters.
The next morning, he exercises in his cell moments before the prison guards open the doors. He had tried smoking earlier but his lighter won’t come on. He sees his opposite-door neighbor light one up and asks to borrow his lighter but his neighbor didn’t oblige, stating that he didn’t have none to spare. He takes his plate to the cafeteria for breakfast. He quarrels with Jago, the man dishing his food.
In the yard, prisoners are milling about. Some are conducting illegal business, making under-the-radar deals while the boy watches closely. Neville walks up to him and for a moment, you notice the boy knew this man before now, it was obvious by how he looked at him – Neville is his father. We get a glimpse of what the boy might have done to be in here. The man mentioned offing someone before ordering the boy to join the rest of the prisoners in the yard. While the boy joins the others, the man walks back to his jail cell like he was the boss of the whole place and the guards let him, they also open the door for him. In his room, he stares at a sketch made by a child, a small nuclear family with the father, mother and child with the inscription “I love you daddy” under it.
Back in the prison, the boy observes just as the others observe him. Jago continues to make deals within the cell. The black man from across his cell walks into his room, attempts to pick something up and he knocks him out. The boy thinks the man he attacked was going to die and carries him off to alert the guards. When they tell him to stand, he runs back to his cell, puts baby oil on his body, breaks his table and gets ready to use the legs as a weapon. Hayes, the head warder was there to supervise everything. Eric bests the guards who came in to get him, and holds one of them hostage and for a moment, it looked like he was about to make a deal to get out of jail.
When he sees it wasn’t going to work, he frees his hostage and continues to state that the incident where knocked his neighbor unconscious was an accident. The guards are not lenient, they drag him down in cuffs but as they make their way past the iron gates, he strikes again, kicking out quickly and getting his teeth around the genitals of one of the guards forcing the others to keep their distance.
A non-operational member of staff, Oliver tries to intervene but the head of the guards commands him to leave the scene. He begs to help the guard but was refused. As he begins to walk away, the guard whose genitals were locked between Eric’s teeth asks Oliver to help and he helps, talking to the boy until he calms down, then he takes full custody of him, leading him to segregation, a cell just like solitary. Oliver calls up Governor Cardew. Eric laughs maniacally in the cell.
When Governor Cardew appears, Oliver explains the situation which he says is dangerous and proposes Eric begin treatment for his violence in his group. Hayes objects, saying Eric shouldn’t be rewarded for his violence with a group assignment. Oliver argues for Eric while Hayes would prefer to punish him. Cardew takes the two back to her office where she questions them about the boy. She finds out the boy is starred up and was transferred to the prison from Durham YO two years earlier than normal. She asks Oliver about the risk he thinks the boy is subject to and he says it’s the staff. She proposes sending him back to the wing and a special kind of therapy with Oliver if he complies with the regime but he will be brought back down if there is any other incident.
Eric says the only problem with the proposal is that if he complies and becomes a model citizen, then the same works for others who undergo the same therapy, then the prison governor and warders are out of a job. He was taken back to segregation. Hayes suggests giving the boy to Oliver as he had requested but one incident, and he’s right back down here. Oliver tries to reach Eric, but Eric wasn’t having any of it.
Back in the wing, Neville goes up into a room with a black man and a white man stating that a deal hadn’t gone through. He smacks the man around and forces him to make a phone call then he warns the man that he will hurt him if he misses another. He leaves and walks into a room labeled “classroom.” The man there, Dennis, appears to be a powerful inmate, the one giving out the orders. He is told that his son is causing disorder so he will have to mentor the boy because the boy will have to die if sanity does not prevail.
Later, one of the guards takes Neville to segregation to see his son. Neville tells him to behave and he can get out unlike himself who can never leave. Eric talks about the early days, as a child, listening to his parents bicker. His father shushes him and asks him to eat the food he brought him.
The next morning, one of the guards loyal to Neville brings Eric back to the wing. His eyes catch Jago leaving his room just as he comes upstairs with the guard. His neighbor is back in his room with a bandage around his head. Eric sneaks into Jago’s room and scatters it then he takes some of his products. Eric steals a few things from the cleaning trolley to clean his room while Jago was yelling for the head of whoever had been in his cell.
Neville takes Eric to Oliver’s group. Jago pays a man to dunk Eric. He disobeys Oliver and smokes in the group even after he was told it’s not a smoking group. He threatens a guard and was escorted back to the wing. Oliver asks two members of his group, Hassan and Tyrone to look out for Eric. That evening, a group of masked men attacks Eric in his room and Hassan comes in to help out. Together, they throw the attackers out. He talks to Hassan and Tyrone later but his father gets mad that he was fraternizing with black people.
Neville is agitated. Back in his room, his roommate tells him he’s jealous of Eric because the boy is building links without him. They almost get into a fight but instead of an actual fight, they kiss. Hayes is working with Dennis, he brings him a package late in the evening. A package that would have been delivered by the younger guard, Dennis.
The next day, Oliver visits Eric in his room. They chat for a moment and Oliver invites him to walk to group with him. Eric asks what he’s doing in the prison system and Oliver said he feels at home. He explains that he was sent away as a child to boarding school. Eric says he was sent away as well, put to care at age 10, he killed a pedophile. He implies that Oliver wants to do the same thing to him as the pedophile. When Oliver gets visibly angry, Eric likes it.
At group meeting, the men argue greatly among themselves. It gets really heated between Hassan and one of the other black men in the group. Eric is the only white man in the group. By the end of the group, the men were all good again. Eric goes looking for his father, he stumbles on Dennis first before he finds his father’s room. His father’s lover brings him into the room to wait for his father. He says he has come to talk man to man and says he doesn’t want his father ordering him about and telling him what to do. His father believes there’s more going on but Eric walks off and heads back to his room, he had caught the romance between his father and his roommate.
At group meeting, they discuss race and racism, and they also discuss sex. Eric heads to the gym where he joins Hassan and the others to exercise. Neville walks in and stands watching him and his group for a while. He tries a routine Hassan just completed but fails, he notices his father staring and wants to quit but Tyrone makes jest of him and he returns and goes through a full boxing routine with him.
He is taking his bath in the bathroom when a man sent by Jago tries to strangle him. He questions the attacker and finds out Jago sent him, Eric attacks Jago, cuts him up with the shank he had built the moment he walked in. Then he asks Jago about Dennis, the man upstairs pulling the strings. He walked up there and tries to attack Dennis, Neville is there and stops him. When Dennis finds out Jago implied that he had sent him after Eric and demanded he transfers out or he will be dead.
Denis sends Neville out and sits down to have a civil conversation with Eric. He advices him to keep stop the silly fights because violence is not always the answer. Dennis tells Eric he reminds him of himself when he was a kid.
Neville invites Oliver to his room and tries to tell him how to guide Eric so he will leave the prison quickly. But Oliver reminds him that his methods and purpose are not about that. At the group meeting, they practice anger management. They deliberately try to make Eric angry and watch as he struggled to keep his calm. They celebrate when he gets it right. A guard is watching outside the door. Hayes walks out and stands beside Oliver while he smokes later in the evening.
Eric is with Hassan and Tyrone, they offer him tea and he comments on the picture of Tyrone and his mother on the wall. They ask about his mom and he says he doesn’t have one. Neville watches as he leaves Tyrone’s room. He sends for Tyrone, and they sit and stare down at each other, Neville asks about the group. The next day, Neville attends the meeting. He picks a fight with his son. Moments after he leaves, the group breaks into a loud quarrel and Hayes takes advantage of that loud noise to force Eric out of the group. Then he proceeds to provoke Oliver into attacking him so he could revoke his access, forcing him out of the prison.
While Eric is waiting to get a meal, his father walks up and stands behind him. Eric leaves the line, and walks away from his father while mouthing off at him. His father follows him back to the cell and they fight. While they argue, Dennis tries to intervene and Eric hits him and throws him off the rail. Eric hits his father again and the guards step in, restraining father and son. Neville got so violent they had to hose him down.
After a while, Neville calls out to Eric, scared that they had done something to him. When he finally heard his voice, he asks what they had done to him and when he heard nothing had been done, he realizes something was up. He cons one of the guards into freeing him, he leaves his solitary room and goes looking for his son.
Hayes and the other guards were about to kill Eric when Neville walks up to Dennis’ room. He tries to get Dennis to rethink but Dennis tries to trick him instead. He kills Dennis and rushes back to segregation just in time to see Hayes and his cronies attempt to hang Eric. He fights them off and saves his boy. While Eric was at the infirmary, Hassan and the other guys from the group try to check up on him.
A guard lets him out of the room just in time for him to see his father transferred out of the prison. He tells him he’s proud to be his dad.