Massive sums were squandered after the Ministry of Justice signed off a huge raft of contracts for services from private firms.
More than £4.3million was spent on cabs to ferry around inmates and staff and a troupe of actors got £720,000 for role play to help convicts get jobs.
Another £84,000 was spent on hairdressers for fashion-conscious prisoners at three prisons, while £100,000 went on toothbrushes and £23,000 was spent on whistles for staff.
The Acme Whistle company received £22,914 for the "supply of Prison Officer whistles for operational use?. Every prison warder is issued with one of the metal whistles which, unlike electronic alarms, cannot go off accidentally and attract much more attention when blown.
Cleaners earned £60,000 mopping up "blood spills? and cleaning after "dirty protests? in East Midlands jails alone.
Campaigners hit out after details of the massive waste of public money emerged. Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers? Alliance said: "Taxpayers will be taken aback by the amount of their money that is being spent on these prison contracts.
"It?s shocking that at a time when departments are reducing costs that this massive amount of taxpayers? money is being spent on things like taxi fares. The Ministry of Justice must look closely at exactly where taxpayers? cash goes.?
Priti Patel MP said: "These items need to be first on the list for the spending review to see where savings and efficiencies can be made.
"The public will be appalled at the waste in public spending that is taking place.?
The shocking figures were revealed in details of 1,219 Ministry of Justice contracts signed off for 2012.
They showed that one taxi company, Vals Cabs 98 Ltd, earned £920,000 from its lucrative four-year contract with the big-spending government department.
Prisoners at HMP Liverpool had haircuts worth nearly £44,000, while bosses at Kennet and Hindley prisons spent a total of £40,500 on the same services.
Steps Drama Learning Development picked up £720,000 of taxpayers? cash for the "provision of professional actors for pre-employment role play scenarios?.
The spending details come just two months after Chancellor George Osborne imposed cuts of £142million on the department which has seen its budget slashed from around £9bn at the start of the coalition government to about £6.8bn.
Earlier this year, MPs on the influential Public Accounts Committee warned that cuts to prison service funding have led to a rising number of assaults and escapes.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman responded to the claims by saying that a spending review is under way.
He said: "We continue to look for further ways to save money.
"That is why ministers have launched a review of discretionary spending to ensure the best value for the taxpayer.?