Al Capone

I figured I would share another essay I wrote from class. This one is on the one True American Gangster; Al Capone.


Al Capone was the reason America thrived during prohibition era.America during the 1800’s was over taking a drastic change as a country.The old agricultural ways of the world were slowly being overtaken by the European industrialized ways.Businessmen were becoming more handy than the good old fashioned farmers. However, the laws still reflected the traditional ways of thinking as gambling, prostitution, opium, and alcohol would become illegal during this time period. Organized crime began to rise as the people wanted to partake in these fun illegal activities in America. New York City, and Chicago were two of the greatest cities known for developing some of the best organized crime criminals that have ever been seen. In the 1820’s, New York was making ridges in the system of the law being aided by thugs that form gangs who fought for control of the voting polls. By winning at the polls, a gang could take control of the police force, and own the law in basics. So, who was the greatest American gangster ever seen in American history during this time period? The answer is Al Capone who was born in America, and bred to a large family. His immense power to move to being the most famous gang leader in America, and to be able to easily sweep through organized crime makes him one of the most notorious leaders in that era. Al Capone can not be depicted as a true psychotic man because the criminal behavior that he displayed  through his developmental stages, were aided by certain situational factors, and had a hand with his mental state that all aided in making the famous public figure that is known as the true American Gangster.

First, Al Capone was the second child born in America to Teresa and Gabriele Capone, and was born in 1899 in Brooklyn, New York. New York was welcoming immigrants from all over the place, china, ireland, italians, romans, and other such types right around then. So it was a perfect melting pot for criminals to blend in. “ The family was a law abiding, hardworking, and striving family that got labeled outsiders based on their broken English or Roman Catholic religion“ ( Iorizzo, 2003  ). So, how did Al Capone become such a great American gangster if his family strived to be law abiding citizens? A criminal psychology theory that would fit the development of Al Capone is the social learning theory. The social learning theory “ emphasizes such concepts as imitation models, and reinforcements one gains from one’s behavior” (Bartol, 2010). An example of imitation is when Al Capone was fourteen and he formed the navy street gang. Gangs were being formed all over New York because of the massive influx of immigrants moving to the United States. His gang was initially started to put an end to “harassment on italian girls and women from their Irish neighbors” ( Iorizzo, 2003).  This need to form a gang had to arise from somewhere. Risk factors towards delinquency or the act of becoming a criminal surround everyone during their daily lives. There are both psychological risk factors, and social risk factors. Psychological risk factors are considered “ inadequate cognitive and language ability, inadequate self regulation skills, poor interpersonal, and social skills” ( Bartol, 2010). These risks can be shown when Capone ends up in disciplinary problems where a the principal gives him a good thrashing for the problem. This issue is displayed as an inadequate self regulation skill. While parental and family risk factors include “ faulty or inadequate parenting, sibling influences, and maltreatment, or abuse.” ( Bartol, 2010) His family wasn’t exactly the perfect family, but it was not an exact risk for Capone. However, a real social risk for him was the fact that his family found cheap housing in a poverty stricken area of New York like most immigrants of that time did.  Poverty is defined as “ a situation in which the basic resources to maintain an average standard of living within a specific geographic region are lacking” ( Batol, 2010). This posed a great risk for Capone as he grew up. There was a consistent pressure on him to try to bring in money for the family, and with this pressure he began to sway towards criminality which was common for youth back then. He dropped out of school, and as a teenager he learned how to use knives, and guns. There was an instance where he used a “ gun to fire it in the basement of the Adonis social club” ( Iorizzo,2003 ).At the age of 16 he had become a teenager who could use sheer force to put an adversary in the ground, but his brains weren’t high enough to keep him under the radar of the police yet. His youth displays troubled times for him. The real problems with his youth had to be with the joining of juvenile organized crime called gangs. A perspective on why children join organized crime that best fits Capone’s case is “ that antisocial, peer rejected youth seek out greater contact with similar peer-rejected and socially unskillful peers” ( Bartol, 2010) .In other words, If a person watches someone smoke a cigarette and decides that looks cool so does the same, they are following a social conformity. Gangs are tougher form of social conformity where the youth are shown how to become better criminals, and possible gang leaders. Al Capone had a decent ability to lead others in gangs, but wasn’t skillful enough to actual lead a gang during his youth. His early development played a hand in how he handled early gang life, and would later be placed into certain situations that would determine who would become.

Next, There is the situational factors that played a hand in the formation of the greatest American Gangster the world has ever seen. There is one person in gang life that if Al Capone never crossed paths with him, he might not have become as notorious as he did. Frankie Yale was a strong man in the world of underground crime. “ Yale ran the Harvard inn on Coney Island which was a bar/brothel that often had fights that ended in killings” (Iorizzo,2003).   He managed to shape Capone into a big brawler who would forget to fight using his brains. This caused him to gain just a little heat from the law, but not enough to garner too much worry. His job here started him as a collector who made sure payments from deadbeats, and pimps did not withhold any of their proceeds from the bar. He did so well that he was jumped up to bouncer, and main bartender. This is where trouble first arose for him. A situational theory that displays why he acted the way he did for this situation to happen if the expectancy one which “ argues that a person’s performance level is based on that person’s expectations that behaving in a particular way will lead to a given outcome” (Bartol, 2010) .Capone is not used to being told no in the Harvard Inn as he is Yale’s number one worker in the place. So, when he is told no there is backlash for both him, and the person that said no.

“ He was working one night at the inn, he saw a beautiful woman, and whispered something unwelcoming in her ear. The woman told Capone no, but Capone does not take no for an answer. In order to defend herself, she enlisted the help of her gangster brother Frank Deluchio. When Capone struck the guy back, the drunk guy who was carrying a knife responded by slashing him.The slashes left scars on him, with one jagged scar across the cheek like the image of modern day’s culture Joker from Batman” (Al Capone, 2014).

His new scars created a nickname for him known as Scarface. This nickname would become about as notorious as he himself would be. This scar would help determine how later in life people would try to model his criminal behavior. However, there was a small turning point in his life where Capone quite working for Yale and decided to get married. His marriage forced him to get a legitimate job as a bookkeeper which made him hone his accountant skills before he went back into gang life. Married life must have felt boring for Capone. “The situational theory that touches on frustration-induced criminality explains that when someone is prevented from responding in a way that had previously produced rewards, their behavior often becomes more energetic, and vigorous”( Bartol, 2010). Basically, his married life prevented him from acting like a big man, and pounding anyone who offended him. Which is most likely the reason  he went back into gang life managing to “ gain a reputation as a loose canon, a young man quick who uses force to settle disputes “ (Iorizzo,2003). This fierce canon of a personality caused him to get under suspicion of murdering a prostitute, and killing a friend who had incurred a gambling debt with Frankie. His trouble here made him run out of New York  in 1919, and into Chicago where his real climb to fame would begin. The situational factors that played out for him before leaving New York created a substantial gain for him when he begins the giant trek to become the biggest gangster in Chicago.

Finally, his arrival at Chicago started the real fiasco that the world would make him famous, and his mental state would have a particular show during his final days. This is where the debate about if Al Capone was a psychopath or not comes into play. A psychopath is defined as “a person who demonstrates a discernable cluster of psychological, interpersonal, and neuropsychological features that distinguish him or her from the general population.“ ( Bartol, 2010) .Based on this analysis most Americans would be quick to label Al Capone a psychopathic gang leader. However, this is actually not the case. Al Capone was just taught to be a very smart man in the way he finagled through the underground organized crime. He can be considered a dysocial psychopath which is not truly a psychopath a all. A dysocial psychopath is defined as a “ display of aggressive, antisocial behavior they have learned from their subcultures, like their gangs or families” (Bartol, 2010 ) .Mainly, most of the aggressive behavior he learned came from Frankie Yale, and Johnny Torrio.  His escape to chicago was requested by Frankie Yale, and the other New York gangsters. He was recommended to work at the four deuces which was run by Johnny Torrio. Torrio would be the perfect man to teach Capone how to use his brain over brawns when it comes to battles. He did so well for working in the four deuces that he became a quarter partner making 100,000 dollars of annual income from the business. His profits were most effective in gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging while trying to make it look like he was a proper businessman running a furniture store. While in Italy, Torrio placed Al Capone in charge. This placement was done at the start of the prohibition era.  There was one event that brought trouble for Al Capone’s suitable luxurious life as a gangster. The ST. Valentine murders. This event involved men who looked like policemen that take gang members and line them up against a wall to slaughter them like sheep. Al Capone was never explicitly seen as the ringleader of the event, but because of his fame, the world placed the blame on him. His ability to be “ superficial charm, and above average intelligence are two of the psychopath’s main features” ( Bartol. 2010). Al Capone was certainly a figure of charm, and intelligence as people tried to imitate him with white hats, and rally for him. But the ST. Valentine’s day  massacre convinced the public that Capone was no longer a safe criminal. It was the first time the public saw a major execution of blood. Capone opened up a soup kitchen, but no one knows how long it stayed open for during the prohibition era. This showed a display of generosity from a famed gangster. But it was not very successful as the tabloids hardly reported on it. Most psychopaths would not show an open display of generosity like Capone tried to do. Though, it most likely was used to deter the public from seeing the crime that was going on around them. However, this was not what caused his downfall. Al Capone was caught by the government for tax fraud. Instead of having to withstand a 2 year sentence he was forced to spend only a quarter of an 11 year prison sentence in Alcatraz. He was placed in a modern prison before Alcatraz but he was able to pay off the workers so that he would live in luxury. By placing him in Alcatraz, the government made a public display of how they were going to shut down organized crime. Al Capone was never sentenced for murder. Truly, he was not a psychopath. Nothing he did labels him as psychotic or crazy. He was just used by the public for his time, and died with his time because of the public. Capone died due to the syphilis he was attracted with, and ended living with his family while having the mindset of a 12 year old.

In conclusion, Al Capone was the only criminal that has remained as a huge public figure in the united States as the number one gangster. He’s not as psychotic as most criminals are, nor was he always depicted as evil. This man was a public figure for an age where without him Jazz music may not have prospered as well, and laws may not have changed as much. The criminal behavior that he developed became apparent during his development stages which taught him the start of the brutality that living as a poor immigrant in a poor environment could cause. Next, Al Capone was placed into some very difficult situations that formed factors on who he would later become. Finally, his mental state was very important on how he would spend his time in Alcatraz. “He ended up with syphilis which is a mental disorder that can cause dementia, and other debilitating mental issues which helped cut  his eleven year sentence in jail in half”(Al Capone, 2014).  A figure that rose to fame through the public’s eye, would die by the public’s eye. He was not committed for any murder, nor was he truly evil which makes him hard to label as a psychopath even if there were killings done in his name. In the end, he was brought down by the same thing that pulled him up to such greatness. The public.


Works Cited:


Bartol, Curt R., and Anne M. Bartol. Pearson Criminal Justice. New York: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. Print

Iorizzo, L. (2003). Al Capone a biography (p. 154). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press

Al Capone [Motion picture]. (2014). Films Media Group.



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