March 2

This Day in History

Crime

Mar 2, 1929:

Congress passes the Jones Act

The Jones Act, the last gasp of the Prohibition, is passed by Congress. Since 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, the United States had banned the production, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages. But the laws were ineffective at actually stopping the consumption of alcohol. The Jones Act strengthened the federal penalties for bootlegging. Of course, within five years the country ended up rejecting Prohibition and repealing the Eighteenth Amendment.

Prohibition was never particularly popular across the nation and when the people slowly realized that it had other ramifications, it rapidly fell by the wayside. The chief problem with Prohibition is that it didn't stop the public's demand for alcohol. Although consumption did drop in raw numbers, it remained substantial. In order to fill this demand, an entire criminal infrastructure was created virtually overnight.

The enormous amounts of money that were available in illegal trafficking helped established organized crime. The nation's major cities were dominated by criminal syndicates that could afford to bribe officials throughout the criminal justice system. This, in turn, produced a significant change in law enforcement. For the first time, the federal government became a major player in policing and prosecuting law breakers.

Many feel that Prohibition also caused a major breakdown in the social fabric because of its effect on the national psyche. With so many of the people brazenly ignoring the law, an atmosphere of cynicism and hypocrisy was established. When the Eighteenth Amendment was finally repealed, Prohibition was widely viewed as a total failure.

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