Prohibition and the Rise of Organized Crime

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Prohibition and the Rise of Organized Crime

Peter H. Mitchell
Neumann University

Thesis: Although prohibition's goal was to increase a sense of integrity in the United States, it encouraged normally law-abiding citizens to break the law, enabled the growth and influence of organized crime, and increased levels of corruption in government and law-enforcement. Outline:

I. Introduction
   A. Definition of Prohibition
   B. Eighteenth Amendment
   C. Medicinal Use
D. Sacramental Use
II. Affects of Prohibition
    A. Wine Consumption
    B. Winery Survival  
   C. Volstead Act
III. Crime and Corruption
     A. Bootlegging
     B. Smuggling
     C. Speakeasies
 IV. Al Capone
     A. Chicago Mob
    B. St Valentine’s Day Massacre
C. The Demise of Al Capone and Prohibition
V. Conclusions

Although prohibition's goal was to a increase sense of integrity in the United States, it encouraged normally law-abiding citizens to break the law, enabled the growth and influence of organized crime, and increased levels of corruption in government and law-enforcement. The purpose of Prohibition was to protect the values sheltered by “Americans” nuclear family (Clark 13). Prohibition in the United States was designed to reduce drinking by eliminating the businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold alcoholic beverages. Prohibition was supposed to lower crime and corruption, reduce social problems, lower taxes needed to support prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. Instead, Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; organized crime blossomed; courts and prisons systems became overloaded; and endemic corruption of police and public officials occurred. In 1919, America was torn with the decision of prohibiting liquor from being sold. There were many incentives to do so. However, political officials did not take into account that people would get what they wanted regardless of the law. With prohibition, America was set for an untamed drinking binge that would last thirteen years, five months, and nine days (Behr 91).

Prohibition, though it was dignified, was a great failure that taught the United States valuable lessons about crime and corruption. Prohibition is shorthand for this nation's thirteen-year misadventure in legislating abstinence from alcohol (MHS 2009). The results of the experiment are clear: innocent people suffered; organized crime grew into an empire; the police, courts, and politicians became increasingly corrupt; disrespect for the law grew; and the per capita consumption of the alcohol increased dramatically, year by year, for the thirteen years. You would think that a “Noble Experiment” with such clear results would not need to be repeated; but the experiment is being repeated; it's going on today. Only the prohibited substances have changed. The results remain the same. They are more devastating now than they were then.

Prohibition in the United States was a measure designed to reduce drinking by eliminating the businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold alcoholic beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took away the license to do business from the brewers, distillers, vintners, and the wholesale and retail sellers of alcoholic beverages (OSU, 2009). Many Americans wanted to do away with liquor altogether. The liquor industry had been proved a major factor in corruption and was tied in with prostitution, gambling, and organized crime. Congress provided for an amendment that would make the entire country prohibition territory. Thirteen months after the 18th amendment was passed by Congress, Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify it January 16, 1919. The amendment became law January 17, 1920. The amendment read:

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article, the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the...
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