If you’re looking at a poker hand in a Connecticut prison, you’re likely also staring at the faces of murder victims. That’s because the state has created playing cards designed to generate tips in dormant homicide investigations. A new batch of cards with new faces is scheduled to arrive in prison commissaries this week.
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone unveiled the second edition of the “cold case” playing cards at a Rocky Hill press conference Wednesday.
The cards feature a picture of a murder victim or missing person believed to be dead, a short description of the crime, and an anonymous tip line inmates can call to report information. Since the program launched in 2010, Kane said the cards have solicited more than 200 tips from the prison population, “many of which led to solid leads; many of which resulted in giving new energy to investigations which had been long since stagnant and led to some arrests, some convictions, and more arrests are coming very close.”
The decks are the only playing cards available for purchase in prison commissaries and Arnone said 15,000 decks have been sold since 2010. The cards don’t cost the state anything. The first batch was paid for through seized asset funds and the state has set aside the money from the sale of the decks to fund the second edition, Arnone said.
The new deck will feature 51 new faces and one victim who was included in the first deck but whose identity was unknown at the time. Kane said the victim has since been identified, but the case remains open.
“All these people had families and friends and we have been able to solve these crimes, these tragedies,” Kane said.
Arnone and Kane said they couldn’t be happier with the success of the first edition of decks and are hoping the second batch will generate new leads for investigators.
After the press conference, Kane noted that some of the program’s success likely can be attributed to inmates looking to cut a deal with prosecutors, but Arnone said that’s not the only reason they’ve come forward.
“Believe it or not, inmates have consciences, too. A lot of times they want to change,” he said.
Arnone said the new cards will be stocked in commissaries as early as Friday and will be available to inmates for around 95 cents per deck.