A quarter of convicted criminals in Wigan reoffend within a year, official statistics show.
Prison reform advocates warn that a revolving door of short sentences for repeat offenders has led to cramped jails and a multibillion-pound bill for taxpayers.
Ministry of Justice figures reveal that 26 per cent of the 1,984 adults released from prison, cautioned or handed a non-custodial conviction at court between October 2016 and September 2017 in Wigan committed at least one further crime within 12 months.
Between them, the 519 reoffenders racked up 2,060 new offences – an average of four each. They had each committed 20 previous crimes on average, according to the data.
The reoffending rate was slightly higher among children.
Of the 119 offenders aged under 18 in Wigan, 35 (29 per cent) carried out another crime in the year following a court conviction, caution, reprimand or warning.
Across England and Wales, reoffending costs the public an estimated £18bn each year.
Nationally, 29 per cent of adult offenders in the October 2016 to September 2017 cohort reoffended within 12 months, rising to 39 per cent for juveniles.
Reoffending rates also vary considerably depending on both the type of offence and length of sentence.
They have remained high, at around 62 per cent, for adults released from prison sentences less than 12 months. Citing this high rate of reoffending, former justice secretary David Gauke called for short jail terms to be scrapped earlier this year.
The chief probation inspector Dame Glenys Stacey has also criticised the “expensive merry-go-round”, but stressed that scrapping short sentences would not reduce reoffending on its own.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Cramming more and more people into prisons is a recipe for squalor, violence, drug abuse and mental distress – and, as these figures show, ultimately more crime.
“Introducing an assumption against short prison sentences, as has been implemented in Scotland, would better protect the public because evidence published by the Ministry of Justice shows that short bursts of imprisonment lead to more offending and more victims.
“For children, the evidence is even clearer. The more contact a child has with the criminal justice system, the more entrenched they are likely to become – and this pushes up offending rates.”
The MoJ said while the youth reoffending rate has increased slightly over the last decade, the number of children entering the justice system has dropped dramatically.
A spokeswoman added: “Reoffending creates more victims of crime and costs society over £18bn a year – that’s why we’re creating a system that can rehabilitate offenders while ensuring robust monitoring takes place in the community.”