'We Are Not Playing Games': Florida Will Give Inmates Playing Cards to Solve Homicides

'We Are Not Playing Games': Florida Will Give Inmates Playing Cards to Solve Homicides

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
June 10, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Florida corrections officials announced Monday that they will jumpstart an oddly dark yet seemingly ingenious method of solving cold case homicides: giving prisoners playing cards.

These are not normal playing cards; each card will be marked with a photograph of a murder victim or missing person, tell their story, and give information on how to report an anonymous tip through the hotline number **TIPS (8477).

More than 5,000 card decks will be printed and distributed to over 60 county jails and over 145 correctional sites statewide, though digital versions will be available to view online.

"As a former federal prosecutor and now as Attorney General, I have seen so many stalled investigations get new life after someone came forward with groundbreaking information. Sometimes that new information comes from criminals or co-conspirators, who have a change of conscience or maybe they are motivated by a reward," Attorney General Ashley Moody said Monday, explaining that tipsters who lead to an arrest are eligible for a cash reward up to $9,500.

"Today we are taking action to generate even more leads to help law enforcement bring criminals to justice. We are giving Cold Case Cards to inmates, but we are not playing games," she continued. "This low-tech approach to generating tips may prove to be an ace up the sleeve as we continue to bring finality to seemingly unbreakable cases.”

Moody referenced that since the program's introduction in 2005, two cold case murders have been solved in Florida. Mimicking the Florida method, at least 17 other states have taken up the cards with varying degrees of success: Connecticut has solved 20 cold cases and South Carolina at least eight.

The cold case cards originated in Polk County, Florida in 2005 when local authorities took a page out of the American military's book: during the Iraq War, officials had doled out card decks detailing Saddam Hussein's regime cronies. Inspired, Polk County started selling cold-case cards in jails for $1.75 a deck.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement explained, “It’s kind of like interviewing 93,000 inmates for new leads and it has worked wonders," Slate reported.

Two years later, Florida produced two card editions featuring 104 unsolved cases. They distributed around 100,000 of these decks to inmates statewide, and soon after, the 2004 cold case murders of James Foote and Ingrid Lugo were solved.

In 2008, a third edition deck was developed and distributed to 68,000 inmates in all 67 county jails and 141,000 offenders on probation, featuring 52 more unsolved cases.

Now, Moody, the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers, the Florida Sheriffs Association, and the Florida Department of Corrections will reinvigorate the program via the launch of a fourth edition.

To see digital copies of the Cold Case Homicide Deck of Cards, click here.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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