By CHARLES ASHBY DENVER - Pueblo native Travis Trani might be the youngest prison warden in the history of the state
CHIEFTAIN DENVER BUREAU
- that isn't known for sure, but he's certainly the youngest one right now.
At age 35 - he's 36 now - Trani was named warden at Limon Correctional Facility in September after working there as associate warden for two years.
His 14-year career in the Colorado Department of Corrections has seen him go from a prison guard to warden, in part, because he's as smart as they come, said DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.
"Travis is just a shining star," Sanguinetti said. "He truly has a fine mind, and he's a very good leader. He has the ability to stop and think and see the big picture. He was never one to make a snap decision. He always wanted to see all aspects of an issue before deciding."
He also has scored among the highest on the state's personnel system exams, she said, adding that the average age of the department's other wardens is about 50.
Trani, a 1991 graduate of Pueblo County High School, decided on a career in the department to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ralph, who retired from the DOC after 21 years. The elder Trani was a captain whose last assignment was at San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo, where he now lives with his wife, Beverly.
"I got hired on to the department in 1994 as an officer working at Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Canon City," he said. "Since then, I moved around a lot. This is my sixth (DOC) facility."
Trani also has worked at Colorado State Penitentiary, Colorado Women's Correctional Facility and Fremont Correctional Facility, all in Canon City.
Limon houses 953 inmates and has a staff of about 300. It is a Level 4 facility, meaning it houses some of the state's most violent offenders.
"Our big focus is to make a cognitive change to make it where they can function within the facility, and eventually go to a lower-custody facility to obtain the programs they need so they can re-enter society and not recidivate," Trani said.
"These programs do work. The department right now is taking steps so we have evidence-based practices, so we can gauge the success of our programs to make sure that what we are doing actually works.
"I really do think we can affect change in the offenders and get them to where they can become productive citizens," Trani added. "By doing that, we meet our ultimate goal, which is public safety. If we can send an offender out where they don't re-offend and commit further crimes, that's good."
Evan Dreyer, the governor's press secretary, said that despite the tough economic times the state finds itself in, and the likelihood that budget cuts will be made, the governor has no intention of cutting back on his recidivism efforts.
Dreyer said that while there may be a cost now, the programs ultimately save the state money in the future from not having to house more people in prison.
"Right now, the plan is to maintain their integrity, but everything is under review," Dreyer said. "We will need to look everywhere in order to achieve the hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts in order to balance the budget, but this is a high priority because it represents an initial investment that will reap later returns. It's smart budgeting, so we're going to do everything we can to stick to our guns on this."
Trani said he fears the faltering economy will cause the state to cut DOC jobs as it did during the last recession earlier this decade.
During that time, the state eliminated about 575 positions, mostly through attrition. Since then, the Legislature has re-created 50 of those DOC jobs.
"Right now, we're holding steady as far as our staffing goes, so it will be dependent on the future of revenues and whether we have to make cuts," Trani said. "My biggest fear with the state of the economy is losing the staff we have now. Hopefully, through this downturn in the economy, we can maintain our staffing and keep our facility safe. That's the bottom line."