Like his father before him, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thomton) is a career corrections officer, He head the Death Row squad, watching over the condemmed and when the need arises, presiding over their executions. Hank's son, Sonny (Heath Ledger) has just joined the "family business" Lawrence Musgrove a blace inmate on Death Row, sketches as he says his final goodbyes to his family-his wife, Leticial (Halle Berry) and little boy, Tyrell. After his family leaves, Lawrence gives the sketch to Sonny. Sonny is crushed under the magitude of the situation and after a fight with his father, takes his own life. Devastated by grief, guilt, and loss, Hank quits his job, and looks for a reason to live. One night while driving, he sees Leticia by the idea of the road crying for help. A car has struck Tyrell and Hank rushes them the hospital, but it is too late. Tyrell's injuries prove fatal. Having also also lost a child, Hank is touched by her loss and feels compelled to help her. They begin a tender romance, the pain of her loss driven far from her mind, until she discovers her husband's sketch, hidden among Sonny's things. However, she realized Hank is a different man now; no longer condemned to helping people die, he can finally help someone live. Loving Leticia has been his reprieve.