Dedicated work in the prison service, a genuine commitment to improving the lives of inmates and active participation in the wider community have earned Claire Range the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour.
The product of unerring natural and professional instincts, Mrs. Range’s wholehearted belief in the importance of inmate rehabilitation development is central to her role as director of Her Majesty’s Prison at Fairbanks; and the Eagle House institution, which caters to young offenders.
During the 1980s, Mrs. Range served on the front lines of the burgeoning tourism industry. After eight years, she took the decision to build on her interest in law enforcement and joined the staff of the newly-built prison in 1981.
The immediate challenges of the new setting included helping to prepare the cells, offices and kitchen for occupancy. Eighteen prisoners comprised the first batch of inmates.
Since that time, a genuine concern for inmates’ rehabilitation, as well as for their family members, have guided her professional and personal decisions.
“People need people,” she said.
Accordingly, a key tool that she applies in her work is the concept of dynamic security. She explained that this means a focus on interaction, observation and verbal contact as key tools, as well as the application of appropriate rewards or punishments in response to the inmate’s behaviour.
While she initially joined the prison service for a three-year stint, that was extended first by years, and then by decades. During that time, she has committed a tremendous amount of her professional and personal energy to her career. This has extended to her attendance at numerous overseas training sessions. The outcome of this is that over the years she has become a role model to many in uniform.
Mrs. Range was especially instrumental in the post-riot restoration of the service in 1999, when she took over as acting deputy director. She was promoted to a deputy director of the prison service two years later, and became the Eagle House director in 2004. In September 2012, she added the Fairbanks directorship to her duties.
This May, she will reach 32 years’ service, but has no intentions of slowing down. In fact, she hopes to continue mentoring the next generation of security workers.
“I’d love to see more Caymanians enter the service. Given responsibilities and guidance, they can develop meaningful careers,” she said. She adds that, while mentoring and security are key, officers must also learn the personality of each prisoner; empathise with their situation; and be aware of the status of their families.
While the number of female inmates has remained relatively low, she says a more significant present focus is on how to cater to the young offenders of Eagle House, especially in light of a constitutionally-mandated separation of those facilities from the adult compound this year.
The deputy director describes the phenomenon of young career-criminals as a “nightmare”. Especially so, since she has seen juveniles and young offenders get trapped in the “revolving door” and return often – well into their adult years.
So too, has been the trend of generational criminality with several instances of parents and their children being incarcerated together.
Even so, the many youths and adults who serve their time and become reformed, productive members of society are her personal triumph, she says. “However, we never hear much about those good people,” she notes.
Out of uniform, her full life is filled with rewarding pursuits, including: church, singing, cooking and time with Elsmer, her husband of 24 years, their five children – and especially their four grandchildren.
She credits her community-minded nature to her late mother, Laura Andreson. As a child, her main chores included delivering her mother’s meals to shut-ins, as well as cleaning for and otherwise assisting those who needed help.
“Ms Fix-it” is how her kids still label her. “While I can’t fix the world, I can, and will, do my part,” Mrs. Range said.
Characteristically offering encouragement for those facing difficult decisions and hard decision, she advises, “Take heart, be patient and look for help if needed; for someone, somewhere, sees something good in you that you may not be aware of.”