Prohibition and the Rise of Crime

By J Michael Jones, Deputy Chief of Police (Retired)
Dec 5, 2008, 08:13

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J Michael Jones, Deputy Chief of Police (Retired)
On January 17, 1920, The 18th Amendment went into effect and what is known as Prohibition became reality. What did not become reality were the predictions of the benefits it would have vis-a-vis Organized Crime.

The renowned evangelist Reverend Billy Sunday proclaimed,

"The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent."

Apparently the occupancy rate in Hell was never threatened by Prohibition. The following are statistics detailing how much worse crime got:

  • Police funding: INCREASED $11.4 Million

  • Arrests for Prohibition Violations: INCREASED 102+%

  • Arrests for Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct: INCREASED 41%

  • Arrests of Drunken Drivers: INCREASED 81%

  • Thefts and Burglaries: INCREASED 9%

  • Homicides, Assault, and Battery: INCREASED 13%

  • Number of Federal Convicts: INCREASED 561%

  • Federal Prison Population: INCREASED 366%

  • Total Federal Expenditures on Penal Institutions: INCREASED 1,000%

To get a more complete picture follow this link: Organized Crime & Prohibition. Thirteen years after Prohibition went into effect [less if you're picking nits] the 21st Amendment was passed and enacted. The date of enactment was December 5th, 1933.

Tuesday 12/05/2008 is the 75th Anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Thirteen years of Prohibition ended by rational thinking and pragmatism, i.e., the economy was in the tank and tax revenues were welcome. As we celebrate that 75th anniversary of the return to sanity we are enduring the fourth decade +/- of insanity reborn as the war on drugs (WoD).

Is it possible that just maybe our policy makers can be convinced that we can go back to the future, that our economy needs the tax revenues that would surely abound with regulated, legalized production and distribution of recreational substances? That faced with policies that have not, do not, and will not work, the money devoted to the WoD could be better spent elsewhere? That the same benefits that did not accompany Prohibition have not accompanied the WoD? That it is time that we as a people are no longer willing to fund or allow our government to wage war on us? Is it possible? If not then we may well be doomed to destroy ourselves.

J Michael Jones is a retired Deputy Chief of Police from Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico in the United States. He comments:

"The 'War on Drugs' has undermined the credibility of law enforcement and government in general, as well as exacerbating the problem of corruption."

Mike Jones grew up wanting to serve. He joined the US Marine Corps straight out of high school. He followed this up a few years later with more service, this time by way of the Gainesville, FL, Police Dept. His first assignment was as an undercover narcotics officer.

"As much as I enjoyed the excitement, freedom, and challenge of undercover work," he recalls, "after a year I had reached the point where I would look into the mirror and ask myself whose life I was going to screw up that day. Most of the people I had busted were young kids who were sharing pot and psychedelics more as a cottage industry than as true dealers."

Jones spent most of the next several years as a soldier of one stripe or another in the "War on Drugs," and from his front-line position he couldn't help but see the futility of the fight. "Pot was going in hundreds of pounds and in tons instead of lids," he reports, "there was more coke and heroin -- easier to get and cheaper than before -- and nearly everyone had guns.... It did not require a rocket scientist to see that there was a continuous escalation occurring -- and that law enforcement was losing ground while expending ever-increasing resources acquired by ever more extravagant promises of results."

He was also seeing how the "War on Drugs" corrupted the warriors. "The siren song of working narcotics was ruining law-enforcement officers who could have been far more productive. These people became fanatical in their pursuit of dealers, using and abusing drug users to achieve their goals. I noticed that federal agents in particular had virtually no regard for the concepts of personal dignity and humane treatment. Police agencies were becoming openly corrupted by the drug trade. There were several incidents in the Miami area where officers were ripping off dealers for the drugs and the money -- and sometimes killing the dealers."

As time passed, developments like the political posturing of getting "tough on crime" by moves like imposing mandatory minimum sentences on drug users and the rise of what he calls "the corrections industry" only furthered Jones convictions. "The 'War on Drugs' represents a tremendous waste of resources," he points out, "resources that could be better used for treatment programs and diverted to better uses within the criminal justice system." By way of LEAP, Mike hopes to "make a positive difference by spreading the word. If the 'War on Drugs' were to end tomorrow, I think it would be wonderful. That is unlikely, but a nudge here or there may have great effect over time. I hope to make a nudge or two."

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