Half of those people who served a custodial sentence in Scotland returned to jail within two years.
Many inmates returned to jail after being released
New figures from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) for 2001 show a 1% rise over the previous year.
The highest return rates were for those who had committed a crime of dishonesty and more young offenders than adults went back to custody.
SPS chief executive Tony Cameron said he was encouraged by the fact that 50% of criminals did not return to custody.
"This is something that SPS is committed to build upon by closer working with partner agencies in the public and voluntary sectors," he said.
"The fact that 50% of those released in 2001 were returned to custody within six months further supports the need to change the way we manage the integration of offenders back into the community."
Mr Cameron said the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill would enable the service to improve this integration.
One of the bill's provisions is to grant early release to some criminals if they agree to be tagged at home.
Scotland's prison population reached record levels between 2003 and 2004.
Excluding remands and fine defaulters, and those freed on appeal, a total of 6,681 prisoners were released in 2001, including 365 women prisoners.
The study found that of those who were jailed again, half were back inside within six months of release and three-quarters were back within a year.
The overall return-to-custody figure was slightly higher than the previous year, up 1%.
Men were more likely than women to return - 50% compared with 47%.
The executive wants to tackle the "revolving door"
But the figures are not meant to show the full extent of recidivism as they do not include released prisoners who are then convicted for an offence and given a non-custodial penalty.
Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said: "These figures re-emphasise the need for urgent action to tackle Scotland's high rates of re-offending - radical action which we are driving forward through our Criminal Justice Plan and Management of Offenders Bill.
"This includes measures to improve sentence management for offenders in prison, upon release and in the community - to tackle the revolving door of offending which sees too many prisoners back in jail within months of their release."
The Conservatives' justice spokeswoman Annabel Goldie said: ┐It is an absolutely shocking statistic that 50% of all criminals released are back in jail within two years and yet Cathy Jamieson still won┐t end the system of automatic early release.
"These people are committing crimes which could not happen if the offenders were still in jail and not let out early to re-offend."
Scottish National Party justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said: "Prison is necessary in our society but there are far too many people in prison who shouldn't be. We have to address this cycle of despair which is scarring Scotland."
The community safety charity Sacro said reoffenders who were not a danger to the public should not be in prison.
A spokeswoman called for more challenging community disposals where attempts were made to change people's behaviour and attitudes.