The Negative Effects of Prohibition

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The Negative Effects of Prohibition

Luis Romandelvalle

HIST102 D015

Instructor: Thomas R Leamy

28 March 2010

Between 1920 and 1933 the United States outlawed the consumption, possession, and transportation of alcohol. This was known as Prohibition. Despite having initial support, prohibition caused many negative effects on the country and was very controversial. Problems with prohibition included: drastic increase in crime, overwhelmed penal systems, lack of tax revenue, and corruption. By the late 1920’s prohibition was becoming increasing unpopular and Americans began to argue for its repeal.

The original supporters of Prohibition were religious fundamentalist who felt threatened by the rise in immigration and (what they saw as) radical ideas. Having felt that their culture and values were in jeopardy an attempt to outlaw alcohol was the last ditch effort to preserve their traditional way of living. In 1917 the 18th Amendment was easily passed and ratified two years later. In addition, Congress passed the Volstead which clearly defined which alcohol was legal and illegal. Anything with more than 1% alcohol was illegal. The first offense was punishable with up to 6months jail time and $1,000 fine. The second offense was punishable with up to 5 years in jail and a fine of $10,000 (which was very high for that time period). Lastly, the government used Padlock Laws as an additional enforcement strategy. Any establishment that was caught serving alcohol could be closed for up to one year and any vehicle caught transporting alcohol could be seized. However, the politicians that passed these acts could not predict how difficult they would be to enforce or the increase in organized crime.

Initially alcohol consumption was considerably down although it was far from reaching its goal of eliminating the consumption of alcohol. The first year was all that it took to for bootleggers to become organized in the importing of alcohol. By 1922 the consumption of alcohol...