There is a reception area for arriving prisoners

in all establishments

Upon arrival, the prisoner is placed in a reception unit for a maximum of 15 days.

A copy of the prison regulations is made available to the prisoners


The rules of procedure are available in each library. A summary sheet of the rights and duties of the detainee is given to each entrant.

Assignment to a cell takes place after the prisoner’s evaluation when entering the facility (article 18 of the Regulations). Assignment takes into consideration the specific vulnerability of the person and the eventual risks to other prisoners or the order and security of the establishment.

Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration


Prisoners have access to a legal aid centre


The measures taken for prisoners to be able to meet with their lawyer are not adequate. It is difficult for the accused person and his or her lawyer to prepare the defense before the trial. The difficulties are mainly the constraints of detention. It is, for example, impossible for the lawyer, according to the case law, to have the recording of telephone intercepts (which will be presented at the hearing) in order to listen to them with their client.

The presence of the lawyer is not mandatory during interrogations, conducted by the police, of convicted persons. It is required for the accused or when the interrogation is conducted by a judge.

Deaths in custody are logged in a register


Figures on deaths in prison custody are published on a regular basis (annually).

Number of deaths in custody


(65 men and 4 women)


Number of deaths attributed to suicide


/ Serviços prisionais, 2017, p. 20.

Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)



Suicide rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)




National suicide rate (per 10,000 inhabitants)



The prison service must notify a judicial authority for

some deaths

In a case of violent death or of death by unexplained means, the director of the institution must safeguard the place of death and any available evidence until the criminal police arrive (article 64 of the Regulations).

The death of the prisoner is immediately communicated to:

  • the next of kin / family members
  • the public prosecutor
  • the criminal police service
  • the inspection service of the Directorate General
  • the health authorities

After a death, the law requires the penal authorities to immediately inform the partner of the deceased, the next of kin or any other person already named by the prisoner in question 1.

  1. European Monitoring Centre for Prisons; “Prison conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p17. 

Suicide prevention policies are implemented


An assessment of suicide risk is undertaken within 72 hours of a prisoner’s admission. Each institution must also develop and implement a plan for suicide prevention measures (article 19 of the Regulations).

The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution and the legislation


The ban on torture is written into article 25 of the Constitution and into articles 243 and 244 of the Penal Code.

The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was

ratified (1989)

All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged


A register (not publicly available) is maintained within the DGRSP. It records all complaints from prisoners, including any violence on the part of prison staff. The MNP and the Ombudsman have access to the register. The prisoners’ complaints are reported to the DGRSP’s audit and inspection service (auditing and inspection services for prison services).

A medical examination is required upon entry to an institution. Amongst other things, the doctor must look for any signs of injuries.

A medical test is mandatory for every period spent in a disciplinary cell. The date and the time are recorded, and any injuries are noted and photographed (article 174 of the Regulations).

Medical personnel do not receive specific training to allow them to identify signs of torture. During their general training, doctors receive teaching on forensic medicine. Any doctor may complete special training to enable him/her to identify signs of torture on his/her own initiative, but such training is not mandatory, nor do penal authorities take responsibility for offering it.

Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates


Every institution is required to establish a register of violent events. No data concerning violent events, whatever they may be, are made public 1.

Each prisoner who is subject to a disciplinary procedure is registered on an internal database specific to the institution in question (articles 173 and 174 of the Regulations).

  1. European Monitoring Centre for Prisons; “Prison conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p43. 

Detained persons have the opportunity to lodge a complaint against the prison administration.

The Regulations provide for several provisions:

  • complaints, petitions, claims can be formulated individually or collectively
  • secure boxes placed in all establishments allow the filing of a complaint- the detainee may lodge a complaint in writing and by post to the courts or any other national or European authority.
  • detained persons may lodge a complaint with the prison administration, the chief overseer or the judge
  • detainees can file a complaint in the register of complaints, which is mandatory in all state institutions (Article 177 of the Rules). [^ 33]

[^ 33]: European Prisons Observatory, “Prison conditions in Portugal” 2013, p. 38.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was

ratified (2013)

An NPM has been established


in 2013

Name of the NPM

Provedoria de Justica


The NPM has come into office


in 2014

The NPM was appointed by

the Parliament

The NPM is appointed by Parliament by a two-thirds majority and provided that this majority is greater than the absolute majority of the members in office (article 5 of the Mediator Statute).

Structure of the NPM

individual body

The Portuguese NPM is an independent administrative authority represented by an individual assisted by a team. The Mediator (NPM), João Costa, is the only one to hold this full-time position. About 15 people work alongside him on a part-time basis. The other part of their time is spent working with the Defender of Rights. This organization sometimes creates confusion among detainees who, when addressing the NPM, believe that they can refer the case to an individual petitioner. A badge system, recently introduced, allows prisoners to distinguish between these two missions.

Term of office of the NPM

4 years

The term of office is renewable (one time). The term of office is irrevocable.
The MNP is “ independent and irremovable and his duties shall not be discontinued before the end of his mandate, save where otherwise established in the present law.“ (Article 7 of the Statute on the Ombudsman).

The NPM reports are made public


The Mediator has until 30 April each year to submit a report to Parliament. This report is published in the Official Journal of Parliament.

The legislation allows the NPM to carry out unannounced visits


The NPM cannot be entered. Nor are they destined to receive complaints, unlike the Defender of Rights (Mediator). Anyone can draw their attention to a particular point.

The NPM can monitor all prison facilities, units and premises


The institutions of the autonomous regions (Azores) are not subject to the inspection and control of the Mediator, except for their activities carried out under the authority of the Portuguese public administration.

The NPM recommendations are effectively implemented

in some cases

The opinions of the NPM are non-binding recommendations. The NPM has significant public pressure but has no opportunity to force the execution of its recommendations, or even to seize a judge.

A mechanism for following up NPM recommendations is established internally. It is provided by the members of the office. A table shows the observations and findings collected during the visits. It records the recommendations followed and those still in progress.

A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty


The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)

Its reports are made public


in 1992, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2016.

The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has visited the country


The visit took place between 27 September and 7 October 2016.

Its report was made public


A report is produced on 8 November 2018, following a visit from 1 May to 10 May of the same year. The report was sent to the Portuguese Government and the NPM. This report is, for the moment, confidential.

The Defender of Rights (Mediator) is another mechanism of control of penitentiary institutions. It is primarily competent to receive individual requests from detainees.

The law provides for a sentence adjustment system


The sentence can be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced (ab initio)


A sentence of imprisonment of less than one year must be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced.

A sentence of imprisonment of less than one year may be imposed as a fine or house arrest under electronic surveillance. If the convicted person’s personal situation so justifies, the maximum sentence can be increased to two years (due to pregnancy, serious illness, age – under 21 or over 65 years of age – etc.). (articles 43 and 44 of the Penal Code).

A prison sentence of less than one year may also be granted on day parole. The consent of the convicted person is necessary. This arrangement must allow the convicted person to pursue their professional activity or studies (article 46 of the Penal Code).

A sentence of imprisonment of less than two years may be converted into community service. Each day of imprisonment corresponds to one hour of work. The maximum executable allotment is 480 hours. The consent of the convicted person is necessary (article 58 of the Penal Code).

A sentence of less than three years, related to a professional offense, may be replaced by a prohibition to practice a profession, function or activity (article 43 of the Penal Code).

The sentence may be suspended as soon as it is pronounced. This suspension applies as long as the sentence imposed does not exceed five years. The period of suspension has the same duration as the prison sentence but can never be less (article 50 of the Penal Code).

The court may also impose a probationary stay. Probation is mandatory when the perpetrator is under the age of 21, or when the sentence of imprisonment is more than three years (article 54 of the Penal Code).

If the sentenced person does not fulfill the obligations related to the adjustment of their sentence, the imprisonment becomes again executory. The time spent on the sentence is deducted from the time of imprisonment.

The court may still decide to waive the sentence. The penalty incurred must be less than six months. The absence of a need for a prison sentence must be demonstrated by the judge. The person is however found guilty (article 74 of the Penal Code).

Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration


The sentence can be adjusted during sentence in the form of a house arrest under electronic surveillance. The duration of the remaining sentence to be completed must be less than one year (article 44 of the Penal Code).

A conditional release can be pronounced, with the agreement of the sentenced person, on three conditions:

  • half of the sentence is completed
  • the sentence already executed is greater than six months
  • the convicted person must show good behavior when incarcerated

If the sentence is more than six years imprisonment, parole is only possible once five-sixths of the sentence has been executed (article 61 of the Penal Code). A “coping” mechanism for parole is planned. It allows the convicted person to apply for release one year before the normal legal limit. During this adjustment period, the sentenced person is subjected to house arrest under electronic surveillance.

Prisoners can contest a negative decision of sentence adjustment


The detainee may appeal the decision not to adjust their sentence. The appeal is made before the judge of the execution of the sentences.

Specific categories of prisoners are ineligible for sentence adjustment


The law provides for a temporary release system


The detained person may be granted judicial leave (decided by a judge) or administrative leave (decided by the prison administration) (article 76 of the Code of Execution of Penalties).