John Reid admitted serious shortcomings in the supervision of violent offenders as he announced the part-privatisation of the probation service.
The Home Secretary acknowledged the Government had had little success in cutting "very high" reoffending rates but provoked anger as he appeared to blame probation officers for the failures.
Ministers are to open the probation service to competition from private firms and charities in an effort to drive up standards. The move follows several high-profile murders by offenders freed into the community, including the killings of the City financier John Monckton and Naomi Bryant, who was stabbed to death at her home in Winchester.
Mr Reid faced further embarrassment after an undercover BBC team claimed staff at two Bristol bail hostels failed to supervise potentially dangerous ex-offenders, including a child killer and a paedophile.
Mr Reid said: "Too much money is going on writing reports and not enough on practical help."Reuse content