One in four criminals went straight back to crime and committed almost 500,000 offences between them last year, figures have shown.
More than half of these were committed by offenders with 11 or more previous offences to their name, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures showed.
And more than 50,000 of these were committed by 10,000 criminals who had previously been jailed at least 11 times.
The figures were released as David Cameron and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling have promised a rehabilitation revolution to bring down a one-year reoffending rate which now stands at 26.7 per cent.
A total of 497,969 offences were committed by 173,274 offenders, four-fifths of whom were adults, within a year of them being released from jail, convicted, cautioned or warned over drugs in 2010, the figures showed.
And 3,275 of these were serious violent or sexual offences committed by 2,901 criminals.
The figures also showed 275,478 (55.3 per cent) of the offences were committed by 78,149 offenders with 11 or more previous offences and 50,123 of these involved 10,427 offenders who had previously been jailed 11 or more times.
Overall, the reoffending rate in England and Wales rose slightly by 0.4 per cent over the past year, but was down from 27.9 per cent in 2000 to 26.7 per cent in 2010.
For criminals leaving jail, the reoffending rate was 47.5 per cent, up from 46.8 per cent in 2009, while for adults who were given short sentences and jailed for less than 12 months, it rose to 57.6 per cent in 2010 from 56.8 per cent the previous year.
A MoJ spokeswoman said: “We are tackling the shamefully high reoffending rates in this country by introducing a rehabilitation revolution – offenders must be punished, but we must also deal with the root causes of offenders’ behaviour so they don’t return to crime.”
The Prime Minister said earlier this week that all but a small number of high-risk prisoners would receive help to turn their lives around and break the cycle of reoffending by the end of 2015.
Prison would also be a punishment and places of “meaningful, hard work where offenders are given the right mix of skills and support to help them find a job on release”, the MoJ spokeswoman said.
And hi-tech ankle tags would be used to track offenders from next year while almost all community sentences would include some form of punishment, she added.
Hartlepool has the worst reoffending rate at 36.3 per cent, more than twice that in Rutland.
A total of 150 violent criminals and sex offenders are at large in the community despite breaching the terms of their release or committing another offence, separate MoJ figures showed. Some 976 criminals had been recalled to prison but not put back behind bars by the end of September, down from 988 in June.
‘Tough’ talk sounds familiar: Page 13.