Almost 400 criminals a week commit another crime while on community service after being spared a prison sentence, figures have shown.
More than 20,000 reoffended last year after being handed a community punishment order, while over 22,000 such orders had to be halted after the criminal breached the terms, which can include unpaid work or receiving drug treatment.
Only two thirds of the 172,910 orders imposed last year were fully carried out according to the data, which was released under Freedom of Information legislation and published in The Daily Mail newspaper.
A quarter of offenders broke the rules and failed to complete the punishment order.
Nine per cent were stopped because the criminal fell ill or died.
Conservative MP Priti Patel said: "The public will be alarmed to see the large number of criminals breaching their community sentences and committing more crimes.
"The courts must start sending these criminals to jail and handing down stronger punishments to keep the public safe."
Community sentences are a key plank of the "rehabilitation revolution'' planned by Kenneth Clark, the Justice Secretary.
Earlier this year, Mr Clarke outlined plans to strengthen community sentences amid concerns they were too lenient.
But an impact assessment by the Ministry of Justice itself acknowledged the new sentencing proposals could potentially increase reoffending.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The majority of offenders successfully complete their community sentences and do not go on to commit further crimes.
"However, reoffending rates are too high which is why we are reforming the criminal
justice system so offenders are properly punished and the root causes of their behaviour addressed.
"We have completed a consultation on the future shape of community sentences to make them tougher and will set out our approach in due course."
The Justice Ministry spokesman added: "Our plans to restore public confidence in community sentences include prohibiting foreign travel and imposing longer, more restrictive curfews.
"We will also be making Community Payback more intensive and demanding with unemployed offenders serving longer hours, carrying out purposeful, unpaid activity which benefits their local community."