STAFF infected by dirty needles in drug-ridden prisons have received £734,000 in payouts in the past three years.
The settlements, including legal costs, were made to as few as nine people, figures reveal.
And most of the bill — picked up by taxpayers — was for last year when £583,000 was paid out.
The cash was paid for so-called needle stick injuries and blood-borne illnesses passed on by them such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Many needle injuries are caused when officers search cells for illegal drugs, sources say.
Once pricked by a used needle, victims can face weeks of anxious waiting before finding out if they have been infected.
The Ministry of Justice said seven of the payouts were made to those injured by needles in 2016/17.
There were five or fewer payouts — the precise figure is not given — in the following two years.
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Data shows a 24/7 hotline, called the Body Fluid Exposure and Sharps Injury line, has had 398 calls since its launch in December 2017.
The MoJ said 4,700 extra prison officers had been recruited since October 2016.
And another £70million has been spent on measures such as body scanners and sniffer dogs.
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