Life has dealt Elijah (Q-Tip) a tough hand. His stepfather is sent to prison, and his mother (Mary J. Blige) becomes institutionalized. Elijah spends time in foster homes, but his talent for photography leads to a college scholarship offer. Soon, however, events spiral out of hand, and Elijah finds himself behind bars for accidentally killing a man (Fat Joe) during a fight. Assisted by his understanding lawyer (Elvis Costello), Elijah fights for his dignity and for prison reform.