Special populations

Number and percentage of female prisoners

6.3 % (813)

Percentage of untried female prisoners

23.6 %


Percentage of foreign female prisoners

20.6 %


There are two penal institutions for women in Portugal:

Four institutions have designated units for women:

  • the Angra Heroísmo prison
  • the de Guarda prison
  • the Ponta Delgada prison
  • the São João de Deus hospital-prison

There is an effective separation between men and women


Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison staff is

mostly female

Frisking of female prisoners is performed by female prison staff.

Women’s specific needs, such as access to sanitary products and to gynaecological consultations, are met.

Women prisoners have access to activities, to training, and to work opportunities.

Conjugal visits are allowed for women

yes, it is necessary to demonstrate long-lasting ties

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells


The legislation provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women or women with young children


Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Childbirth takes place in

outside care facilities

Female prisoners give birth in hospital (article 34 of the Code for the enforcement of punishment).

Security staff is prohibited from entering the room during labour and childbirth


The use of instruments of restraint is forbidden during labour and childbirth


Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, until 3 years old

Women are permitted to keep their child with them until the age of three years. This may be extended to the age of five years in exceptional cases 1.

The law permits prisoners who are fathers to keep their child with them until the same age(s). To date there are no such reported cases.

  1. European Monitoring Centre for Prisons; “Prison conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p30. 

Prisoners with children are allocated a separate living space to other prisoners.

Supervisory staff who work in areas designed for children wear uniforms.

The specific needs of children – food, clothes, healthcare, activities – are met by the penal authorities.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

16 years old

A juvenile offender aged between 12 and 16 years may be placed in an educational centre.

Incarcerated minors

0 % (0.3)

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice

The law provides for the placement of the minor in an educational centre (minors aged 12 to 16) or incarceration (from 16 years of age).

The environments for juvenile offenders vary depending on the severity of the offence committed:

  • Open environment: the juvenile offender is permitted to leave the educational centre alone, within previously agreed hours. S/he may meet his/her family at weekends and may enjoy 15 consecutive days of holiday.
  • Semi-open environment: the juvenile offender is permitted to leave the educational centre, accompanied by a caseworker. S/he is not permitted to return home at weekends. S/he enjoys 15 consecutive days of holiday.
  • Closed environment: the juvenile offender is not permitted to leave the educational centre.

A single institution – the Leiria “school prison” – houses only juvenile offenders aged 16 years and older, and young adults up to the age of 21 years. 347 places are available. In this institution the length of a sentence may be extended until the offender reaches the age of 25 years. Admission to this institution is not accompanied by legal obligations on the part of the staff team.

The decision whether to admit a juvenile offender to the Leiria prison or to an adult prison rests entirely at the discretion of the DGRSP. As a result, juvenile offenders are not necessarily separated from adult offenders [^8]1. A juvenile offender aged between 12 and 16 years who has committed an offence receives educational interventions. Such offenders are housed in an educational centre, and may be placed there at any point up until the age of 21 years 2. There are eight educational centres in Portugal:

  • Bela Vista educational centre
  • Navarro de Paiva F educational centre
  • Navarro de Paiva M educational centre
  • Olivais educational centre
  • Padre António Oliveira educational centre
  • Santa Clara F educational centre
  • Santa Clara M educational centre
  • Santo António educational centre[^centres]

The general and disciplinary regulations of the educational centres, which date from the 20 December 2000, constitute the legal basis of the organisation, of the authority and of the operations of these centres. Each centre, however, has its own specific regulations. [^8]: European Monitoring Centre for Prisons “Prison Conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p29.

  1. Annual penal statistics of the Council of Europe, “SPACE I – Prison populations 2015”, 2016, p40. 

  2. Directorate General for reintegration and penal services, “Monthly statistics – educational centres”, September 2018. 

Figures on minors in prison are published

on a regular basis (annually)

Minors in prison are separated from adults


The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors


The schooling of minors is compulsory


School and professional programmes are mandatory.

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


Minors can be placed in solitary confinement, as well as educational centres.

Specific activities are provided for minors in educational centres. A case management guide, designed according to the RNR (Risk-Need-Responsivity) model, is provided to each caseworker. PEP (Personal Educational Project) programmes are established in educational centres 1 and allow better monitoring and evaluation of educational interventions. The juvenile offender follows their programme on a voluntary (unpaid) basis. The programmes may consist of a medical project, a collaborative project with children’s activity centres, or even a practical project to learn a manual trade.

Whilst in prison, juvenile offenders also benefit from several other educational projects, some of which are mandatory and which are provided in all centres. These are:

  • programme for re-adaptation and for prevention of future deviant behaviour;
  • life skills training programme;
  • suicide prevention programme;
  • drugs prevention programme.

Each educational centre also develops its own particular projects 2.

Support in the workplace, in training and in socio-educational activities is provided when the juvenile offender leaves the educational centre. In 2017, the rate of reintegration into society was 76.3% 3.

  1. Directorate General for reintegration and penal services, “Report on activities and self-assessment, 20172018, p276. 

  2. ibid., p297. 

  3. ibid., p286. 

15.2 % (1,944)

The foreign nationalities that are most represented in the Portuguese prisons are Cape Verdean, Brazilian, Angolan and Romanian.

Foreign prisoners are informed of their right to communicate with their consular representatives


Immediately upon intake, foreign prisoners are allowed to make a free phone call to inform their embassy or consulate about their detention. Foreigners have the right to be kept informed about the follow-up of this communication.
Foreign prisoners may ask to carry out their sentence in their home country. They must be informed of this right and the procedures to follow[^14]. [^14]: European Monitoring Centre for Prisons; “Prison conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p. 31

The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


A summary sheet of the rights and duties of the detainee is translated into the most widely spoken foreign languages (article 9 of the Regulations).

Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter


The law ensures that translation and interpretation services are made available.

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


The process for accessing a lawyer is identical for Portuguese nationals and for foreigners.

In principle, foreigners in unofficial or illegal situations are not imprisoned. Remaining on Portuguese territory in such a situation does not constitute an offence. As part of a deportation process, the foreigner in question can be placed in a holding centre. A judge must make a decision on whether or not this is appropriate.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to remain in the country after having served their sentence

under certains circumstances

Deportation of foreigners is not automatic. Expulsion as an additional penalty may be required according to a court decision (article 151 of Law 23/2007 - on the entry, permanent settlement, departure and removal of foreigners from Portuguese territory).

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


Foreign prisoners are allowed to call home if they get permission from the warden and cover their own cost. The party contacted must have been identified and authorised beforehand by the facility director who can always use his/her discretion to decide how these calls are carried out.

Visits can be arranged for visitors who have to come from long distances from the prison by obtaining permission from either the warden of the facility or the DGRSP.

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of

5 years

Cumulative sentences have a limit


The statute calls for non-cumulative sentencing: similar sentences that are pronounced for different charges, can be accumulated only to the maximum legal limit of the longest sentence. E.g. If someone commits an offence which leads to a five-year prison sentence, and a few days later, commits another one carrying a two-year sentence, the total sentencing cannot exceed five years.

There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners


It appears that the larger and more secure facilities house prisoners with long sentences and the small facilities are for those with short sentences.

People condemned to a long sentence do not have a specific detention regime.

Life sentences are banned


The maximum sentence is 25 years.

17.3 % (2,217)

Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


According to the law, remand prisoners convicts must be kept separate. (Article 9 of the Code for Execution of Sentences and Measures of Deprivation of Liberty).

The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


There is no legal provision for bail as such. After sentencing, only the judge may decide what kind of bail can be granted. A judge may reduce a sentence that is shorter than one year to one punishable by fine. (see section on sentence adjustment policies).

The Law of 29 August 2007 reforms the framework and limits the length of provisional detention. The maximum length of detention varies according to the circumstances. Generally speaking, temporary custody cannot exceed 18 months. This period can be extended to two years when the offences are linked to terrorism, organised crime, or crimes punishable by a prison sentence of more than eight years. The length of provisional detention can be extended up to three years in the case of particularly complex offences, implicating several individuals and in limited cases (article 215 of the Criminal Procedure Code).

Pre-trial detention is a coercive measure. Its implementation can be challenged in the 30 days following its issue (article 219 of the Criminal Procedure Code). Every three months, the judge reviews the legality of the pre-trial detention. The detainee can, in parallel to this review, request at any time that the judge reexamine his pre-trial detention (article 213 of the Criminal Procedure Code).

  • The Supreme Court of Justice rejected the request (habeas corpus) for the immediate release of Mr. Nuno Vieira Mendes. On 15 May 2018, the Lisbon Court of Appeal had ordered his remand in custody following investigation of the attack on the Sport Club training centre in Alcochete (Setúbal district, Lisbon region). He is also accused of other criminal activities. According to the Supreme Court, the release of Mr. Nuno Vieira Mendes could lead to the continuation of the said activities and disruption of the investigation.

    / Sábado

The regime for the person placed in pre-trial detention is in the texts the same as for those who are convicted. They enjoy the same rights. The judge who orders pre-trial detention can - in the interests of the investigation or in the interests of security - decide to limit the number of visits or of phone calls. Only the judge is authorised to modify the regime of pre-trial detention of prisoners awaiting trial.

Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed


The Portuguese Constitution forbids the direct or indirect registration by the State of data relating to race and ethnicity.

Statistics relating to crime place temporary or permanent foreign residents whether documented or not into one generic category1.

Minority or indigenous backgrounds are criteria for specific cell or unit assignment


People of certain religious or ethnic groups are not subject to a particular detention regime.

The specific needs of prisoners are taken into account with regard to

  • language
  • religion
  • diet
  • culture

Regular religious assistance, guaranteed by the presence of chaplains in prison, is possible when the number of prisoners with the same religious belief justifies it.

The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned


LGBTQI+ persons are separated from other prisoners


The law does not specifically mention LGBTI persons. It provides in general terms for special units for the enforcement of sentences or measures of deprivation of freedom for vulnerable persons or ones requiring special protection. Generally speaking, the allocation of housing and cells takes into account the circumstances of vulnerability.

No particular protection is provided for LGBTI persons. A more general protection exists for vulnerable persons.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their marital status

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners


Elderly prisoners

6 %


Older people do not enjoy a specific detention regime. However, penitentiary establishments are organised into units by age group.

Elderly persons benefit from a suspended sentence from the age of 70 if their state of physical or mental health is incompatible with incarceration, or if they are no longer capable of comprehending the meaning of the sentence they are serving. The measure is only implemented in the case of serious, terminal and irreversible illnesses.

Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities


Death penalty is abolished

yes, since 1976

“Human life is sacrosanct. The death penalty does not exist in any possible scenario” (article 24, Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, 1976). A person subject to the death penalty in their home country cannot be extradited from Portugal.

Last execution occured in 1849.
Restoring the death penalty is not a subject of debate.