Interpret how the onset of the Great Depression and the end of Prohibition affected organized crime.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ending of Prohibition closed off an avenue where organized crime generated much in terms of income and revenue.  The legalization of alcohol forced organized crime operations to diversify their holdings and develop new means of making money.  Those that adapted and found new revenue streams prospered and flourished.  Those who did not were eventually rubbed out of the picture.  Given how the Great Depression created so much in way of poverty, individuals in organized crime that could find new means to make money would have a willing and ready labor pool from which to draw upon in order to sustain economic viability.

Alcohol provided much in way of wealth to members of organized crime.  In terms of substantiating empires and pyramids of wealth, bootlegging alcohol helped to establish organized crime enterprises.  Organizations that were well constructed used their funds from bootlegging wisely to finance their other, less lucrative ventures such as gambling, extortion, prostitution, or protection.

When Prohibition ended, these ventures were still part of organized criminal activity.  However, organized crime now expanded into unions, construction, and sanitation.  From this movement, organized crime pivoted into other ventures such as trucking, interstate commerce, and construction.

The Great Depression helped organized crime make inroads within these fields. Working men were feeling pressured from the economic challenges presented in the time period, making them more susceptible to incentives offered.  It is here in which the ending of Prohibition and the Great Depression played a formative role in the increase of organized crime in America of the 1930s. Along with this diversification, the creation of The Commission helped to consolidate and strengthen the hold of organized crime.  Initiatives such as The Syndicate moved organized crime from controlling street activity to developing a network of a criminal empire that had its hold over much in way of urban America.  Such activity "solidified the networks formed through bootlegging to become national in scope."  It helped to substantiate organized crime as a money making venture and an indelible part of modern America.

It is in this light where the rise of organized crime drew from the end of Prohibition and the emergence of the Great Depression.  The ability to envision what can be out of existing conditions helped to make organized crime's rise a reality of the time period.