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History

Prohibition and crime

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In 1920, the 18th Amendment was passed making the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal. But many people in this time of 'Prohibition' continued to drink and gangsters made enormous amounts of money from supplying illegal liquor.

Prohibition summary

The noble experiment of Prohibition was introduced by the 18th Amendment, which became effective in January 1920.

Here are four reasons why Prohibition was introduced:

  1. National mood - when America entered the war in 1917 the national mood also turned against drinking alcohol. The Anti-Saloon League argued that drinking alcohol was damaging American society.
  2. Practical - a ban on alcohol would boost supplies of important grains such as barley.
  3. Religious - the consumption of alcohol went against God's will.
  4. Moral - many agreed that it was wrong for some Americans to enjoy alcohol while the country's young men were at war.

In 1929, however, the Wickersham Commission reported that Prohibition was not working. In February 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition.

Prohibition had failed. Here are six reasons why:

  1. There weren't enough Prohibition agents to enforce the law - only 1,500 in 1920.
  2. The size of America's boundaries made it hard for these agents to control smuggling by bootleggers.
  3. The low salary paid to the agents made it easy to bribe them.
  4. Many Americans never gave their support to Prohibition and were willing to drink in speakeasies - bars that claimed to sell soft drinks, but served alcohol behind the scenes.
  5. Gangsters such as Al Capone made money from organised crime.
  6. Protection rackets, organised crime and gangland murders were more common during Prohibition than when alcohol could be bought legally.

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