Some 110,000 criminals found guilty of at least their sixth offence in 2012 avoided prison.
The issues has come to the public’s eye after campaign group the Centre for Crime Prevention obtained the figures.
Some 55,683 were not jailed despite 15 or more previous offences and just under 28,997 avoided prison despite 25 or more previous offences, the data obtained under freedom of information laws revealed.
Peter Cuthbertson, author of the report and director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said prison was the only way to protect the public from serious criminals.
“The courts are utterly failing to show they take crime seriously.
“Prison is the only sure way to protect the public from hardened criminals.
“The most prolific offenders are responsible for a growing percentage of all crime, and locking them up would have a massive impact on the crime rate.
“New Zealand recently fought rising crime by letting criminals know that it is ‘three strikes and you’re out’.
“In Britain, we don’t even have 300 strikes and you’re out.”
Some 5,692 offenders found guilty of a crime in 2012 were not jailed despite 50 or more previous offences, the figures showed, while 1,474 avoided prison after 75 or more previous offences.
Elsewhere, the data show 523 avoided prison after 100 or more previous offences, 198 were not jailed after 150 or more previous offences, 65 avoided prison after 200 or more previous offences, 26 were not jailed after 250 or more previous offences and eight avoided prison after 300 or more previous offences.
Northumberland, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire were the top three criminal justice areas with the highest percentage of criminals avoiding prison.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “Since 2010 those who break the law are more likely to go to prison for longer and we are continuing to overhaulsentencing to ensure that the toughest sentencing measures are available to the courts.
“We have introduced a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence, and also tightened up community sentences to ensure those who receive them are punished properly.
“We need to break the depressing merry-go-round of reoffending; that is why we are also making radical changes to the way we rehabilitate offenders.”