Crime and Corruption

Crime and Corruption

Prohibition and Organised Crime: 1910-1929

  • The Volstead Act of 1919 enforced the 18th Amendment, commonly known as Prohibition, making the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the USA.
  • Prohibition led to an increase in organised crime, as criminal gangs exploited the high demand for illegal alcohol. This led to a surge in illegal activities such as bootlegging and the operation of underground bars known as speakeasies.
  • The most famous gangster of the era was Al Capone, who made vast amounts of money through bootlegging and other illegal activities. His gang was responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, which resulted in the deaths of seven members of Chicago’s North Side Gang.
  • Attempts to enforce Prohibition were undermined by lack of resources, resulting in widespread evasion of the law.

Corruption in Law and Government: 1910-1929

  • Widespread corruption in law enforcement and government allowed organised crime to flourish. Many police officers, judges, and politicians were bribed to ignore, or even assist, criminal activities.
  • The Teapot Dome Scandal in 1922-23 was a clear illustration of corruption within the US government. Albert Fall, the Secretary of the Interior, was found guilty of accepting bribes from oil companies in exchange for exclusive drilling rights on public lands.
  • With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 and changing public opinion, efforts to eradicate corruption became stronger. However, corruption still remained a significant problem.

The End of Prohibition: 1910-1929

  • The detrimental effects of Prohibition and the difficulty enforcing it led to growing public disillusionment, fuelling the drive to repeal the amendment.
  • The 21st Amendment, ratified in 1933, officially ended Prohibition. This had a major impact on organised crime, severely reducing their income from bootlegging and leading to a decline in their power and influence.
  • Despite its end, the period of Prohibition had noticeably changed US society, causing significant increase in crime rates and widespread corruption in law and government.