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An Inside View Of
JT Colfax

Colfax "crowded out" of Boulder
J.T. means "just transfer"
By Richard Fleming
Boulder Weekly

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Colfax "crowded out" of Boulder
J.T. means "just transfer"
by Richard Fleming

Life behind bars is no kind of life, even in a "luxury jail" like Boulder County's. Shut away behind steel and glass, you do as you're told, 24-7, while the free world runs on without you on the other side of the chain link and razor wire. But things can always get worse. And for J.T. Colfax, they have. On Nov. 11 he was transferred to Gilpin County Jail, an isolated, hostile place on a windy mesa seven miles west of Central City. He calls it "a tomb."

Since he was locked up in June, 1997 for drunkenly stuffing burning news clips into the mail slot of the Ramsey home, Colfax, aka James Thompson, has amused the press and annoyed law enforcement authorities with running correspondence and talk show commentary on the Ramsey investigation and other current events. Then a couple weeks ago, in a stroke of ballsy yardbird originality, Colfax, with the help of a former-inmate, set up his own e-mail address

(jtcolfax@ hotmail.com) and website

(http://members.tripod.com/~JT_Colfax/index.htm).

Using regular mail as a conduit to friend and site-meister Lance Matthews, Colfax began posting police reports related to his case with critiques added. He also put up letters and observations about police activities and jail happenings related to the Ramsey case. When Colfax revealed that a construction crew could have been the source of the suspicious "intruder" boot print found at the murder scene, detectives packed off and grilled Colfax's source, a prisoner who had done kitchen remodeling for the Ramseys-demonstrating the desperate straits of their investigation and their peculiar fixation on Colfax as a linchpin figure in the Ramsey case.

His 'Net work seems to have gotten under someone's skin. Last week Colfax was rousted at 5:30 a.m. and transferred to Gilpin County Jail. In stark contrast to Boulder County Jail, where most of its 400-some prisoners can freely circulate, Gilpin is a sparsely populated facility where inmates are isolated in "pods" of a handful or so, and guards are "extremely hostile," Colfax reports. The difference between the facilities is illustrated by their recreational opportunities: Boulder has a weight room and basketball courts; Gilpin has only a grim cell-like room equipped with a hoop and a flat basketball. Locked in a pod with only two other prisoners, Colfax finds the surroundings stifling and oppressive. "It's a hick place," he says. "It feels dangerous."

Authorities may be using Gilpin's long list of restrictions on inmates to cut into Colfax's media play. Throughout his stay at Boulder County Jail, Colfax used the U.S. Mail-and free postage furnished by the county-as a conduit to the outside world. His penciled letters, bristling with capital-lettered words, arrived regularly in the newsrooms of metro area papers. In Gilpin, inmates' access to mail is limited. While indigent prisoners are allowed one free letter a week, 50 cents is the standard charge for any letter beyond that. And guards examine all letters written by prisoners-unlike at Boulder. Those deemed objectionable are censored or confiscated.

The official reason for Colfax's transfer: overcrowding. According to Lt. Larry Hank of the sheriff's department, 10 prisoners had to be transferred to Gilpin due to excessive numbers in the local jail, which was built to hold 280 and now houses 409.

Capt. Chuck Pringle, who runs the Boulder jail, insists Colfax wasn't singled out because of his website and press-savvy ways. He fit the profile detailed by Gilpin County, he says: a prisoner who had caused no major problems and had no significant medical concerns.

"You can't tell me I'm not up here for mailing issues and website issues," Colfax says.

Those "issues" involve revelations that Colfax made about jail preparations to receive John and Patsy Ramsey, says his website manager, Lance Matthews. Colfax had pieced together various bits of rumor and gossip to determine jail authorities were readying two cells for the parents of the murdered beauty princess in anticipation of indictments from the grand jury currently hearing evidence on the case.

Jail officials laugh at that notion. But soon after those postings, Colfax was packed off to Gilpin. "The timing's funny," Matthews notes.

Capt. Pringle claims ignorance of Colfax's website, as does Sgt. Bob Meals, who investigates violent incidents and other problems among Boulder's inmates. Meals calls Colfax "not much of a problem." And non-problem prisoners are just the kind of prisoners Gilpin demands, Pringle adds.

But Gilpin may have already changed its mind about Colfax. This week he was transferred to Douglas County, because jailers wanted to refinish the floor, says Hank. Colfax says the switch to the slammer in Castle Rock was made because phone calls to him from the press and friends were causing Gilpin jailers "a hassle," a guard told him.

He'll be returned to Gilpin on Dec. 1, Hank says. Colfax shudders at the prospect. "The thought of going back to that place just FREAKS me out," he says. "And this moving around is causing a LOT OF STRESS, and STRESS is what got me in here in the first place."

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