ALBANY — A newly elected state senator introduced legislation Thursday to shut down Rikers Island in three years.
Sen. Brian Benjamin's two-page bill would require the city to close the jail on or before July 1, 2020 and "establish other facilities and/or utilize existing facilities" to house prisoners.
"Rikers doesn't work," said Benjamin, a Manhattan Democrat, who was elected last month to fill the seat left vacant after Bill Perkins joined the City Council.
"It's dysfunctional and I strongly believe we have to turn back the clock on mass incarceration," Benjamin said.
His legislation runs counter to Mayor de Blasio's plan to shutter Rikers within 10 years.
"I don't believe 10 years provides a sense of urgency," Benjamin said. "We can do better."
Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for de Blasio, said the city was sticking with the 10-year timetable and would follow the recommendations of a panel chaired by retired New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.
"We agree that Rikers Island should be closed as soon as possible," Grybauskas said. "Before we close Rikers, we need to bring down the population. The Lippman Commission agrees that a 10-year timeline is realistic for getting off the island. Collaboration with all stakeholders — including the state and the courts — will be crucial to achieving this timeline."
While Benjamin's bill has the blessing of Gov. Cuomo — who said at a rally in April that he would sign it if approved — faces long odds of winning approval before the Legislature ends its annual session on Wednesday. It has yet to be introduced in the Assembly.
"There are bills that are showing up tomorrow that are getting done," Benjamin said. "Things can happen."