"The taxpayers shouldn't have to flip the bill every time someone gets arrested," said city Jail Administrator Juan Lopez said. "So if we can recover some of those fees and alleviate the burden on the law-abiding taxpayer, then that's the responsible thing to do."
The city has collected about $31,000 in booking fees since 1997, though only those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol were charged, he said.
The DUI drivers were targeted because they were less likely to serve jail time, which Lopez said cut down on the chance to recoup costs.
With inmates now being released early from prisons and Los Angeles County jails, the chances of recovering booking fees from them is greater because they won't be imprisoned, he said.
If 15% of all arrestees convicted and released pay the fee, Lopez said the city should reclaim at least $157,000 per year.
"From what we have seen in the past, people that have made a mistake and want to do the right thing are willing to pay their debt to society," he said. "This offers them the opportunity to do the right thing and to be a contributor to society, rather than one that takes advantage of it."
With increasing pressure to tighten expenses, the City Council approved the new fees in September as a way to recoup costs of providing services.
All the money collected from the jail fee is earmarked for fingerprint tools, photographs, wristbands, court scheduling, storage and other administrative costs, according to a city report.
Government codes allow the city to recover only administrative, not employee, costs, Lopez said.
"At this point, any cost recovery is a plus," he said. "It's better to recover some than not any at all."
Parolees will be responsible for paying the fee on their own, said Maria Franco, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Still, parole agents do not track whether parolees have paid restitution, she said.
"We do not get in the business of collection," Franco said.
Failure to pay the fee could result in additional jail time, and Lopez said most arrestees opt to make the payment because it is less costly than being locked up again.