There's not a whole lot to do in prison, so inmates spend a fair amount of time playing cards.
For several years, law enforcement officials around the country have been putting that prisoners' pastime to good use. They've been putting facts and photos from unsolved crimes in front of prisoners' eyes by printing them on decks of cards, hoping to generate leads.
Colorado is the latest state to produce the cold case cards. Cold case analyst Audrey Simkins of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation tells NPR's Tamara Keith the department has put out one set of cards and is creating two more for release next month.
"A program that allows the case to be seen and viewed by a lot of people who may have input or information really just gets the case moving forward and allows the investigators to work on whatever leads may come in," Simkins says.
Colorado has nearly 1,600 cold cases, which they define as cases that are unsolved 3 years after the crime, she says. Officials sifted through those cases to find the most likely candidates for a photo and description to print on the cards' faces.
The decks are generating tips, although none of the cases on the first deck have been solved since the cards were issued in the fall, she says.
"We've gotten about four dozen tips so far," Simpkins says. "I think the fact that the phones are ringing and information's coming in where it wasn't before is a huge success for us."
The program is also good for victims' families, she says.
"With the cases being cold and resources being a little bit slim in places, that just their case being mentioned or featured in something like this is huge for them. It reminds them that their loved one isn't forgotten."