In one American jail, the self-styled and publicly elected Toughest Sheriff in America, Joe Apraio is pushing right wing penal rhetoric to the limit. Some of his policies include the reintroduction of chain gangs for men and women - "I'm an equal opportunities incarcerator", explains Sheriff Joe; the wearing of a cartoon like black and white stripped uniforms and the reduction of jail regime to the bare essentials. "It actually costs more to feed our police dogs than it does the inmates". Sheriff Joe's supporters argue that he is the answer to America's exploding prison population, which stands at over 2 million. In the run up to his election, the film examines whether these controversial and draconian measures are a real deterrent to crime and a method of fast rehabilitation or merely head-line grabbing stunts to bolster the sheriff's already massive popularity. The film explores the institutionalised brutality of this jail regime with the killing of a prisoner by guards recorded on CCTV and follows the daily lives of some of the chain gang inmates. We hear arguments from both sides of the fence, following the sheriff and his opponent on a high octane campaign trail. The film also provides gripping and highly visual insight on the wider issues behind the sheriff such as drugs, crime and methods of policing, the role of posses and armed militias and America's growing obsession with guns.