Prohibition Failure Research Paper

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Ultimately, Prohibition failed because it was expensive for the federal and state governments to enforce, but profitable for corrupt officials to ignore. Since the US government was reluctant to spend the appropriate amount of money to hire and train Prohibition officers properly, there were many incompetent or corrupt officers, which made Prohibition run less smoothly. Furthermore, because of how much it would have cost to give every Volstead violator a proper trial as guaranteed by law, the courts instead had to come up with ways to lower court time and costs. Thus, they usually ended up giving lenient sentences instead of aggressively prosecuting criminals, which led to more criminals being free and was obviously detrimental to Prohibition.…show more content…
The Volstead act was supposed to give anyone charged with a violation a jury trial. However, this was expensive to do properly, as they would have needed to hire many more judges and lawyers, and jury trials could take a lot of time. Furthermore, in many cases, the defendants would just be acquitted because the jury was formed of people whom themselves drank and thought the punishment was excessive. Thus, it was easier, as well as more profitable, for the court to just release the defendants with a fine. It was especially profitable as many of the defendants were repeat offenders and would thus continuously come in for a violation, quickly be fined, pay their fine, and repeat the process. This would generate more money, though at the cost of more work for Prohibition officers and more illegal alcohol being produced, sold, and consumed. One notable example of this practice was Seattle, where the Country Sheriff had an agreement with the bootleggers that they would always be quickly fined and never jailed so that they could continue to violate the law and pay more money. This practice was so widespread and unquestionably bad for Prohibition enforcement that Emory Buckner, an attorney for the Southern District of New York, once even suggested that the note on the defendant's record in cases like these should have read “Escaped on payment of money”. In the places where the courts were attempting to try the Prohibition violators fairly, there were so many cases that the judges were overwhelmed and could not keep up. These cases also sometimes ended up pushing other important legal matters to the side and clogging the court. For instance, John McGee, a Minnesota federal district judge who was known as the “bootleggers’ terror”, was so overwhelmed with cases about Prohibition that he actually committed suicide after writing a note saying that he felt like the Prohibition cases never

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