Prisoners received more than £1m in compensation for being released late from jail over the last three years.
The Ministry of Justice figures for England and Wales show 280 inmates were paid an average of £3,600 each.
The payments are triggered when prison authorities fail to keep to their own commitment to release an inmate as previously agreed.
The number of inmates compensated amount to less than 1% of the roughly 80,000 inmates held at any one time.
Prisoners can claim £110 for each day they are kept inside beyond their expected release date.
The figures released under a Freedom of Information request showed that departing inmates received £276,000 in the financial year to the end of March 2008, £491,059 in the next year, and £260,000 in 2009-10.
The payments for late release are typically triggered by mistakes made in the prison by managers who must calculate precise release dates.
These calculations can be difficult because of uncertainty over exactly how much time an inmate had spent in police custody or on remand during a trial.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said that prisoners, like anyone else, had the right to sue authorities over claims of wrongdoing.
"Each litigation case is dealt with on its merits and, so far as the evidence allows, all claims are robustly defended," said the spokesman.
"The Prison Service defends significantly more civil claims than are settled. Such claims are only settled on the basis of strong legal advice from the Prison Service's appointed solicitors.
"Prisoners may also seek compensation through the internal complaints procedures, without going through the legal process, for items such as lost or damaged property.
"Each claim is investigated and, if substantiated and the prison found to be at fault for the loss or damage, the prisoner may receive compensation."
Pressure group the Taxpayers Alliance said the Ministry of Justice should get its house in order.