Courts in Northamptonshire are the toughest in the country when it comes to jailing criminals.
That is the picture painted by Government figures which showed that 12 per cent of offenders in 2012 were handed an immediate custodial sentence, meaning the rate has almost doubled since 2004.
It is the highest of any of the 42 police force areas in England and Wales. The average rate is eight per cent.
Meanwhile, courts in neighbouring Warwickshire sent the second lowest proportion of convicted offenders to jail, with only 4.5 per cent receiving an immediate custodial term.
The figures also show Northamptonshire has one of the lowest proportions of its population who received a sentence of any kind.
The county’s police commissioner Adam Simmonds said he was pleased to see magistrates were trying to ensure justice was delivered.
But he added: “My feeling would be that we always want to make sure the right people go to prison. I don’t necessarily think it’s the best place for everyone.
“We have high re-offending rates, so I would question whether prison is working.
“I want to make sure the right people go to prison, and when they come out that we know what to do to stop them reoffending.”
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said he thought most of his constituents would be satisfied at the high rate of custodial sentences.
He said: “Local people will be pleased to know that local courts have the best rate in the country for sending offenders to prison.
“I think most Telegraph readers would take the view that prison is the most effective deterrent.”
But Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, described a short prison sentence as “a catastrophe for everyone”, saying it risked compounding issues like drug addiction and also caused great expense to the taxpayer.
He added: “It is impossible to ignore the striking disparity in sentencing trends between different criminal justice areas.
“Are people in Northamptonshire committing serious offences at more than twice the rate of their neighbours in Warwickshire? It seems highly unlikely.
“A court which imposes short prison sentences increases the likelihood of local people becoming victims of crime, because the failure rate is so high.
“Community sentences are much cheaper than custody and they deliver better results.
“They not only address a person’s offending, but allow them to access other services they need, such as help with drink, drugs or mental health problems.”