Idealistic and naive psychiatrist Dr John Jason (Paul Henreid) arrives at the Elmview Reform School for Troubled Girls and immediately begins to try to make a difference in the lives of some of the inmates.
Meanwhile, the cruel supervising matron Mrs Beuhler (Grace Coppin) enforces the strict disciplinary policies of the institution with the aid of the other matrons, treating the girls like concentration camp inmates.
Oblivious to the sadistic treatment of the girls by the matrons, it takes a rebellious girl named Loretta (Anne Francis in her first major film role) to open Dr Jason’s eyes.
When the matron uses a high-pressure hose on the girls as a disciplinary measure and Dolores Guerrero (Rita Moreno,) hangs herself as a result of the constant abuse, Jason – assisted by staff social worker Ruth Levering (Catherine McLeod) – finally gets the proof he needs and threatens the head of the school, Mr Riggs (Cecil Clovelly), with exposure unless he is given free rein to run things. Riggs agrees.
Loretta, who has fallen in love with Dr Jason, realises that he and Miss Levering are attracted to each other and vents her hatred on the social worker and determines to escape. The new regime instituted by Dr Jason receives the fullest appreciation of the inmates, however.
Under his careful guidance, many of the girls begin to show improvement. When a girl’s prank results in a fresh outbreak of cruelty by the matron, disorder follows. In the confusion, Loretta and Jackie (Anne Jackson) steal a truck and head for the nearby city.
Newspapers demand an investigation, and with Dr Jason on the spot, the girls return to give true evidence. The evil administration is dismissed and Dr Jason and Miss Levering remain in charge as husband and wife.
This film was produced in New York City by the Danziger brothers, who recycled several elements eleven years later in So Evil, So Young (1961).
Dr John H. Jason
Rita Moreno (as Rosita Moreno)
Enid Rudd (as Enid Pulver)