GONZALES — The temporary closure of the Sunshine Bridge has led the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office to set up a new office to book people arrested on the east bank of the Mississippi River.

In the past, they would have been booked on the west bank on their way to jail. But with the bridge's closing, the Sheriff's Office has opened a booking center in its year-old substation and 911 center in Gonzales for arrests made on the east bank, Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said.  

The trek across the river to the parish's west bank now takes an hour or so longer than it used to, as travelers have to cross at Veterans Memorial Bridge in Gramercy. 

The Ascension Parish Jail is located on the west bank on Lemanville Cut Off Road in Donaldsonville, less than five miles and just minutes from the foot of the Sunshine Bridge.

The Sheriff's Office new substation and 911 center on the east bank opened on Airline Highway in Gonzales in September 2017.

The substation houses patrol officers, a civil division and a business office where people can pay tickets or taxes. The 11,000-square-foot building, connected to a 6,000-square-foot 911 center, also has two, temporary holding cells, Webre said.

At a new, full-service booking center opened in the back portion of the substation, people who have been arrested on the east bank are fingerprinted and photographed, complete paperwork and are issued prison uniforms, Webre said. 

Two Sheriff's Office corrections officers have been temporarily transferred from their positions at the parish jail in Donaldsonville to staff the booking center in Gonzales. 

"There are no plans to keep it open permanently, but it's working nicely now," Webre said of the east-bank booking center.

The booking center in Gonzales is also available to the Gonzales Police Department and State Police for arrests their officers make, Webre said. 

Prisoners booked in Gonzales are transported, in small groups, two to three times a day to the parish jail, Webre said. 

The closure of Sunshine Bridge, which is not expected to reopen until early next year, "didn't reduce the amount of crime, unfortunately," he said. 

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