More than half of all criminals who are jailed have at least 15 previous convictions or cautions, official figures show.
In the year to March 50.1% of defendants given immediate custodial sentences for both minor and serious offences already had 15 sanctions or more.
It is the first time since current records began a decade ago that the proportion has exceeded 50% over a period of 12 months from April.
In 2005, the percentage of criminals jailed for both summary and indictable-only crimes who already had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions stood at just over a third.
The figures, released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), lay bare the scale of re-offending rates.
Last month Justice Secretary Michael Gove described Britain's failure to tackle the issue as "horrifying".
He has suggested introducing a link between a prisoner's commitment and progress in education while behind bars and their release date.
In the 12 months to March just over 100,000 adults convicted of an indictable offence had 15 or more previous convictions or cautions.
Around two in every five of those found guilty or admitting more serious crimes now has a "long" criminal record compared to just under a quarter in the same period 10 years ago.
However, the MoJ said that there had been a decline in offenders with longer criminal records in recent years.
The department said: "There has been a fall since 2009 in the number of offenders progressing from their 15th to their 16th conviction or caution.
"Similarly during the 12 months ending March 2015 there was a decline in the number of offenders with 16 or more previous convictions or cautions."