Almost half of released prisoners re-offend within three years, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Most offenders committed another crime within the first year of release, while the percentage of burglars who re-offended has increased to 70%.

The figures relate to inmates who got out of jail in 2009.

Male offenders had a higher rate of re-offending than women. Recidivism rates decreased with age.

Overall, the recidivism rate of 47.5% represents a slight drop on the figure of 51% recorded in 2008.

Rates also fell across most offence groups.

The rate of re-offending was lower for those on probation or community service orders, with 37.3% re-offending.

Again, more males than females re-offended as did younger offenders. Four out of ten committed another crime within 12 months.

Overall the rate fell by just under four percentage points on 2008, however there was an increase among those aged between 18 and 36.

Almost half of those who re-offended carried out burglaries or related offences while four in ten were convicted of weapons and explosives offences.

Commenting on the report, Minister Fitzgerald said: "I welcome the fact that recidivism levels for both those who were released from prison in 2009 and those who were supervised by the Probation Service have fallen by 3.5% and 3.7% respectively.

“I am confident that the joint initiatives recently introduced, including the Community Return and Community Support Schemes, will result in lower recidivism levels being reported in the prison cohort in future.

"I am very pleased with the continued improvement in offending reduction among those on probation supervision.

"Our justice agencies are each very diverse groups, with their own roles and responsibilities. The Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service have signed a Joint Agency Response to Crime Protocol with the Garda Síochána.

"Their aim is to target, in a coordinated way, those prolific offenders who cause a high level of harm or disruption in communities. 

"I am certain that, in collaboration with statutory, community and voluntary partners they will achieve an effective outcome," Minister Fitzgerald added.