Prison reform campaigners stood up for community sentences today after it was claimed that they are failing to stop reoffending.
Official figures obtained by pro-prison group CPP suggested that nearly 8,000 people jailed last year had previously been given 11 or more community sentences and more than three-quarters of prisoners had received at least one.
It said that nearly 40,000 criminals who received a community sentence went on to commit about 125,000 offences within a year.
CCP director Peter Cuthbertson said that "stiff prison sentences" were the answer.
And Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said that reoffending rates were "unacceptably high," particularly among those jailed for a short period, and that the government would "toughen up" community sentences with "real punishment."
But Criminal Justice Alliance director Vicki Helyar-Cardwell rubbished the CPP's claims.
"We know that reoffending rates for short prison sentences are getting worse, whereas community sentences are improving," she said.
"We need to strengthen community sentences through smarter use of drug treatment, reparation and more mental health support."
Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said community sentences are almost 10 per cent more effective than a short prison sentence at reducing reoffending.
"To cut crime and prevent future victims, respected research shows that it is far better to pay back in the community for harm done than waste time behinds bars."