Riots that swept across the UK were the result of a penal system that fails to stop "a feral underclass" reoffending, the Justice Secretary has said.
Writing for The Guardian, Kenneth Clarke revealed that 75% of over-18s charged with involvement in last month's unrest had criminal records.
In brief excerpts on the newspaper's website, he claimed that the "broken penal system" had failed to stop the "criminal classes" from reoffending. He said that there was "a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism".
Mr Clarke's outspoken comments came as a new study to examine the causes and effects of last month's disorder was launched.
Reading The Riots, compiled by The Guardian and the London School of Economics, will include surveys of those who took part in the disorder and interviews with residents, police and the judiciary.
The report will also analyse two databases put together by the newspaper, which contain more than 2.5 million riot-related Twitter messages and statistics about more than 1,000 defendants who have appeared in court charged with riot-related offences.
Senior politicians and legal figures have expressed widely differing opinions about appropriate punishments for those involved in the violent unrest and looting.
On Friday, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer warned that they should be treated in the same way as other offenders.
Mr Starmer said: "We should not treat these cases as a separate category to be dealt with differently. We should treat them as we do any other case. We need to keep our feet on the ground."
However Prime Minister David Cameron has praised the "tough message" that the courts have been handing out.