Taxpayers have spent more than £11.2 million on utility bills for empty prisons over the past five years, new figures show.
Despite not housing any inmates, ministers paid £11,241,261 to keep the heating, electricity and water running at closed prisons between 2012 and December last year, according to figures released after a written question by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
It comes amid warnings of a prisons "crisis" in England and Wales, with growing concerns about overcrowding and falling numbers of staff.
Mr Farron told the Press Association: "Our prisons are in crisis, suffering from chronic underfunding, but this Government seems happy to waste millions of pounds on prisons without prisoners.
"Ministers are presiding over a total and utter shambles and look woefully out of touch. They can't deal with prisons full to bursting but can keep the lights on at empty ones.
"This money would be better spent recruiting more prison staff to help get the violence we are seeing in our prisons under control. This sort of waste is criminal."
Ministers have launched a major overhaul of the prison system after a string of disturbances and falling safety standards.
Assaults in jails in England and Wales reached a record high of 25,049 in the year to September, according to the most recent official statistics.
Prisons minister Sam Gyimah, responding to the written question, said: "Where the Ministry of Justice has closed prisons, the level of services, such as heating, water and electricity, is reduced to that necessary to maintain the fabric of the buildings and ensure the sites remain safe and secure until final disposal."