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Modern Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Prior To The 1930s, Modernizing Criminal Justice, Further Expansion Of Federal Criminal Justice

In early 1929 newly elected Herbert Hoover (1874–1964; served 1929–33) became the first U.S. president to mention crime as a major issue in his inauguration speech. A crime wave caused by bootleggers (persons who illegally made and sold alcohol) and gangsters swept America in the 1920s, thanks in large part to the introduction of Prohibition. Prohibition made it illegal to make, sell, or possess alcoholic beverages, which created a huge demand for obtaining and producing it illegally.

Respect for the criminal justice system, consisting of police, courts, and prisons, greatly declined as the public and criminals dodged the alcohol ban in every way possible. Law enforcement seemed very unskilled in enforcing the new law. As the crime spree continued through the decade, it became more violent and improvements in law enforcement gained greater public support.

From the 1930s into the twenty-first century, the federal government played an active role in criminal justice. Still, the states shouldered most criminal justice responsibility for the major crimes of murder, armed robbery, rape, theft, larceny, Government officials break into barrels of illegal liquor, emptying the contents onto the street. Prohibition dramatically increased criminal activity—mainly the illegal distribution and purchase of alcohol. (The Library of Congress) and arson. As crime rates rose in the twentieth century, the federal government increased funding for local and state law enforcement, set national crime policy, and kept national statistics. Crime concerns dramatically grew as society changed and new technologies were introduced through the twentieth century.

For More Information


Chase, Anthony. Law and History: The Evolution of the American Legal System. New York: The New Press, 1997.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States, 2002: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2003.

Friedman, Lawrence M. Crime and Punishment in American History. New York: Basic Books, 1993.

Walker, Samuel. The Police in America: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

Web Sites

Court TV's Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods. http://www.crime library.com (accessed on August 20, 2004).

"Uniform Crime Reports." Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm (accessed on August 20, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law