The number of offenders being returned to prison after being freed on licence has more than trebled in the last five years, says the Prison Reform Trust.
Offenders are not being told why they were recalled, says the trust
The trust says the "startling" increase is due to conditions attached to release being more strictly enforced.
In 2003-2004, 8,135 offenders were recalled to jail, compared with 2,337 in 2000-2001, it says.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the number of recalls showed how well the probation service was doing its job.
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) said unpublished government research showed four out of 10 offenders released from short prison sentences were recalled to jail for committing new crimes.
However, among all types of prisoner the majority were recalled for breaking licence conditions rather than for re-offending.
Enver Solomon, author of the Recycling Offenders Through Prison report, said it was a "harsh, draconian approach" which was impacting on the prison service.
The probation service had "changed direction" over the past few years, he said, and now had a "much more target driven approach".
"The other side of it is the impact it has on people being back in prison," he said.
Recalled offenders were often left feeling distressed and resentful, Mr Solomon added.
The report claimed offenders were being left in the dark about why they were being recalled, while delays in transferring information meant they could not make prompt legal representation against the decision.
"Resources ought to be about proactively preparing you for life when you leave prison," said Mr Solomon.
"Instead, large number of offenders, who do not pose a threat to the public, are being dragged back into overcrowded, overstretched jails at great expense to the taxpayer.
"Prisons exist to protect the public and detain serious, persistent criminals rather than warehouse people who have done their time and need support in the community to rebuild their lives."
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the figures on reoffending were likely to prompt concern that prisoners were being freed too early.
But Martin Narey, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, which oversees both the prison and probation services, said the numbers being sent back to jail proved probation was not a "soft touch".
And he rejected the idea that there was a lack of support for prisoners released on licence.
He told BBC News: "What has changed is the nature of supervision in the community.
"People now have to do what they're told. They know that probation isn't a soft touch and they know that if they don't do what they're told by their probation officer they'll end up back in prison."
The PRT report also found that about 9% of criminals released on electronic tags under the Home Office's home detention curfew had their licences revoked each year since the scheme began in 1999.
Of those, 17% had reoffended, 57% had broken curfew conditions and the remainder were recalled because it was not possible to monitor them.
But the Home Office spokeswoman said: "Prisoners on licence, whose behaviour gives cause for concern, face swift action to recall them to custody.
"The increase in the recall of prisoners reflects our overriding concern to protect the public from further offending and sends a clear signal that we will not tolerate poor behaviour from those offenders serving a sentence in the community.
"The increase in the number of recalls is a direct result of the probation service improving its performance in enforcing licence conditions."