Ron Decker, a handsome, educated 25-year-old drug trafficker, has just been sentenced to 10 years at Eastern State Penitentiary, a huge, ugly fortress where stabbings, stompings, race-riots and brutal punishments are daily occurrences. Unsure whether he'll survive prison on his own, Ron turns to hardened criminal and ex-gang leader Earl Copen for guidance and protection. When Earl sees a bit of himself in Ron that's worth saving, he obliges, perhaps too well, and an unusually intimate relationship -- more than friends, but not lovers -- is forged between the two men. Despite Earl's patronage, however, life in prison changes Ron in not so subtle ways. He's absorbing the ethos of violence that surrounds him, ultimately self-identifying as a criminal. When he blows his chance at parole, his transformation is suddenly and starkly revealed -- he's now a model product of the Animal Factory.