Recently released court statistics show a growing percentage of prisoners sentenced for federal drug crimes in southern Indiana are heroin offenders.
A U.S. Sentencing Commission report shows that heroin accounted for nearly 13 percent of the sentences for federal drug crimes in the region during the 2015 fiscal year. That's up from 5 percent in 2014, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.
More than 37 percent of criminals sentenced in southern Indiana's four federal courthouses in 2015 were for drug crimes, up from 30 percent the previous year. Southern Indiana has outpaced the entire nation in percentage of drug offense sentences, according to the report.
Methamphetamine cases still overwhelmingly account for the largest percentage of drug offense sentences in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, at more than 51 percent in 2015, up from 42 percent in the previous year. U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said the changes in percentages reflect the availability of meth brought in across the U.S. southern border.
"Particularly in southwestern Indiana, from Terre Haute down to Evansville, meth is the number one threat in terms of drugs," he said.
The same cycle of supply and demand is occurring with heroin, because people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to the drug as a cheaper and more effective option, Minkler said. An additional reason could be because after the state started federally prosecuting pharmacy robberies, the number of those robberies dropped by more than 50 percent from 2015 to 2016, causing people to turn to heroin, he said.