FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2018
New York City Department of Correction Opens George Motchan Employee Wellness Center
Newly Constructed Wellness Center Furthers Department’s
Commitment to Work-Life Balance for DOC Employees
QUEENS, NY— On April 8, 2019 the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) cut the ribbon on a new staff wellness center on Rikers Island where uniformed and non-uniformed staff can gather off-duty to observe their religion, exercise, and find support between shifts at one of the City’s toughest jobs. The wellness center repurposes the two-story visitor’s center of the George Motchan Detention Center (GMDC), which officially closed to inmates in June of 2018 as the jail population reached record lows.
Employees can use the center for fitness, meditation, spiritual observance, financial literacy, resiliency training, therapeutic and peer support. The center will be managed by the Department’s Chaplaincy and Wellness Division and will be available Monday-Friday 24 hours per day and on a modified schedule Saturdays and Sundays.
The Wellness Center also features a multi-faith chapel and a dedicated space for Islamic observance and prayer, and is the first mosque space devoted to Muslim Correction Department employees in the City. It is a testament to the Department’s mission of being an agency which fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion.
There is an abundance of research over the last decade regarding the stress correction officers deal with on the job including an increase in the population of detainees with violent charges and gang affiliations. The services offered at the Wellness Center to DOC employees will help mitigate that stress.
“Building this place of respite for our uniformed and non-uniformed personnel is another way the Department is showing our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our staff. As we know, law enforcement is a stressful career and the Wellness Center will give staff the opportunity to de-stress in a supportive, empathetic environment,” said DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann.
Executive Director of Chaplaincy and Staff Wellness, Justin von Bujdoss understands firsthand the toll the job can take on staff health and wellness. He and his team are responsible for providing emotional support, grief counseling and religious services to uniformed and non-uniformed members through the Department’s Correction Assistance Response for Employees Unit (C.A.R.E.).
“We are committed to maintaining holistic support and compassionate CARE for all of our staff,” said von Bujdoss. “The Wellness Center provides a centralized location where staff can find support in the forms of physical, spiritual, emotional and social wellness. Staff can increase resilience, and gain wisdom learning to cope with the many stressors of our important work.”
GMDC opened in 1971 as the Correctional Institution for Women. With the opening of the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) for women in 1988, GMDC was transformed into a male-only detention center. The following year, the facility was named after the late George Motchan who was killed in the line of duty. The 45-year-old Motchan was a 17-year veteran of the Department. GMDC was closed due to the decreased inmate population, the transfer of 16 and 17 year olds off of Rikers Island, and an aging infrastructure as one of the oldest facilities on the island.
“I think my uncle would be thrilled to see a space like this dedicated to employees. His death is an important reminder of the dangers and pressure correction officers deal with every day,” said Deputy Warden Joseph Vasaturo.
A 9/11 memorial dedicated to the more than 1,000 DOC employees who participated in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero will also be on display at the Wellness Center as a reminder that DOC will never forget their courage and sacrifice.
About the New York City Department of Correction
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) provides for the care, custody, and control of persons accused of crimes or convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. The Department manages 11 inmate facilities, eight of which are located on Rikers Island. In addition, the Department operates two hospital Prison Wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court holding facilities in each borough. During Fiscal Year 2018, the Department handled over 49,000 admissions and managed an average daily inmate population of approximately 8,900 individuals. Our dedicated workforce of both uniformed and non-uniformed staff members represent the city’s BOLDEST.