Plans to get repeat offenders off the "carousel of crime" were announced yesterday by shadow Home Secretary David Davis.
At the Conservative conference, Mr Davis said half of all crime was committed by ex-convicts.
To break this offenders in prison must be given basic education and help to get off drugs.
On release, they must be assisted in finding a job, getting a home and keeping clear of drugs and drink to stop them returning to crime.
"We've got to find a way to end the carousel of crime," he said.
"Offenders commit an offence, get locked up, get released and then go straight out and commit another offence.
"Round and round they go, leaving a trail of victims in their wake. The only way to stop this absurd carousel... is to stop criminals being criminals."
Mr Davis insisted his plans would make prison tougher and help ex-prisoners from "falling between the cracks of state failure".
He also pledged to bring immigration "back under control", saying Labour's failure to do so had let in hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, including some dangerous foreign criminals.
Mr Davis said: "The failure to control our borders hasn't just led to more crime and less secure streets. It's also let down a lot of honest, hard-working immigrants who came to this country with something to contribute."
He said in a few weeks his party would publish an analysis of the benefits and costs of immigration. But the gist of the report would be that immigration can be of enormous benefit to Britain, both economically and culturally.
But he said this could only happen if it was properly managed and controlled, adding: "I promise you this. We will bring immigration back under control."
Mr Davis said his party did not want a "walk-on-by society" but one that restored the rigour of the criminal justice system and "strengthened the spine" of society.
Under Labour, police officers were being thwarted by bureaucracy at every turn, demoralised by soft sentencing and "distracted by navel gazing initiatives".
He vowed: "We'll trust the police to get on with the job not tie their hands with more red tape as the Government continues to do.
"And we'll introduce direct local accountability of police authorities to the communities they serve."
Mr Davis mocked Labour's plans to hand out on-the-spot fines for a range of new offences, claiming criminals would be handed "the equivalent of parking fines for mugging, robbing and assaulting decent law-abiding citizens".
Under a Conservative government, he said, people who mugged, robbed or assaulted innocent victims would be brought before the courts and treated like the criminals they were.
Home Secretary John Reid accused Tories of talking tough on crime but having a "soft voting record" when it came to tackling it.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: "David Davis appears to be suffering from the same problem as David Cameron: the rhetoric simply doesn't match the reality."