Three-quarters of all crime that results in a caution or sentence in England and Wales happens because of reoffending.
That was the figure unveiled by David Gauke in his valedictory speech as justice secretary on Thursday, as separate statistics showed violence rocketing by 20 per cent.
The Home Office’s quarterly dump of crime statistics painted a bleak picture – knife crime at a record high, sexual offences and robbery up, as the proportion of crimes prosecuted plummeted to just 7.8 per cent.
While heated arguments about the causes of the dire figures continue, one fact is clear – the current strategy for preventing crime is not working.
Police are calling for more funding for detectives after their ranks were decimated in years of cuts, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have pledged more “bobbies on the beat”, while charities want cuts to preventative work and social services reversed.
The competing demands have overshadowed Mr Gauke’s radical call for prison sentences of under six months to be abolished, except in cases where they are needed for public protection.
Research presented by the Ministry of Justice on Thursday found that 64 per cent of people released from prison following short sentences commit another crime within 12 months, while reoffending costs England and Wales £18bn a year.
“Prison is not an end in itself, but a means to an end to make society safer,” Mr Gauke said in an impassioned speech.
“Justice works best when punishment and rehabilitation are balanced and the cycle of crime is broken.”
His approach has been backed by numerous criminal justice charities and pressure groups, including the Revolving Doors agency.
CEO Christina Marriott urged the next prime minister to “urgently back a consultation on this important policy”.
But Mr Gauke rightly expects to lose his cabinet post if Mr Johnson becomes prime minister, following the candidate’s calls for an end to “soft justice” and early release from jail.
And so his call for the government to “follow the evidence” and scrap ineffective short sentences is likely to fall on deaf ears, and the feedback loop of rising crime will continue.