The Failures of Prohibition

Outlines the failures of Prohibition and evaluates some points.

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  • The Failures of Prohibition
    • Practical enforcement problems
      • 3000 officers, on an average salary of $2500
        • Could not have been enforced with so few officers
        • Low salary led to corruption (10% of officers arrested for corruption)
        • However, Eliot Ness led the team which put Al Capone in jail, therefore there were some successes with enforcement
      • Medicinal alcohol was still legal
        • George Remus made $5m in five years by selling medicinal alcohol to bootleggers
      • Popularity of speakeasies
        • Could get alcohol in 20 minutes
        • Deaths from alcoholism rose by 600%
        • Counties and states which supported Prohibition still made it impossible to get alochol
      • Farmers could make illegal alcohol from crops
        • One brand, Jackass Brandy, could cause internal bleeding
    • Growth of organised crime
      • The money which the government could have gained from alcohol went to gangsters
        • John Torrio retired with $30m
        • Al Capone was on $60m a year
      • Gangsters had 'friends in high places' leading to judicial and political corruption
        • Mayor 'Big Bill' Thompson of Chicago allowed John Torrio free reign in the city
        • Al Capone went to Alcatraz for 11 years on tax evasion, rather than for the (approx) 400 deaths that he ordered
      • There was a growth in violent crime e.g. the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre
    • Opposition within society and government
      • Politicians were not willing to follow Prohibition laws themselves; at the Democratic Party Conference 1920, delegates were offered free illegal whiskey
      • Business tycoons showed no intention of adhering to the laws (and they were rich and influential voters)
      • Those who supported Prohibition couldn't decide whether education or strict law enforcement was the best way to prevent alcohol consumption

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