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
hotmail.com) and website
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
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
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
"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