Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


The prison service offers activities to prisoners


The prisoners have access to sports, social and cultural activities.

Outside educational, cultural, artistic or sports entities organise social or cultural activities in prison. In 2017, there were 282 entities for social and cultural activities and 112 for physical and sports activities1.

  1. Directorate General of Reintegration and Prison Services, “Status and self-evaluation report 2017”, 2018, p.103. 

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


In 2017, the prison population (12,991 prisoners) had access to 304 sports activities. Indoor football, table tennis, volleyball and soccer are the main sports1.

  1. Directorate General of Reintegration and Prison Services, “Status and self-evaluation report 2017”, 2018, pp. 106-107. 

There are designated places for cultural activities


In 2017, the prison population had collective access to 439 social and cultural activities. Activities “for the purpose of information” such as those encouraging reading and writing, are the most prevalent within the facilities. Together, debating, reading and writing represent 42.8% of organised activities1.

  1. Directorate General of Reintegration and Prison Services, “Status and self-evaluation report 2017”, 2018, pp. 103-105. 

The enrolment of prisoners in activities of their choice is subject to the approval of the facility’s management. The DGRSP has the right to object.

Prison facilities have a library


The terms and frequency of access are determined by the director of each facility. The DGRSP has the obligation to promote partnerships with public, private, consular, or diplomatic institutions with a view to keeping the available materials permanently up-to-date (article 94 of the Regulations).

Work is compulsory


The facility’s management must offer work to the prisoners, taking into account their skills and choices (article 41 of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences). On 31 December 2017, 5,965 prisoners were in employment (46% of the prison population)[^26].
[^26]: Directorate General of Reintegration and Prison Services, “Status and self-evaluation report 2017”, 2018, p. 88.

Number and percentage of prisoners who work

46 %

/ DGRSP", 2018, p. 88.

Variation in the number of prisoners who work


All prisoners are allowed to work


Rules governing access to paid employment are established by the General Regulations for Prison Facilities (Chapter III of the Regulations).

The prisoner must state his/her interest and will to occupy a position of employment. It is necessary to submit a written request.

The director of the facility has the discretion to assign the prisoner to a work station or not. Where applicable, the prisoner can be subjected to a medical, physical or mental health examination.

Prisoners are not covered by employment contracts.

Prisoners are paid for their work


Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum wage

The remuneration of persons deprived of their freedom is greatly inferior to that paid on the outside. It varies according to whether a person works for the prison establishment or for a private company. In the latter case, pay is higher but remains vastly inferior to that in the rest of the country.

Portuguese law enacts the general principles governing the organisation and remuneration of work (Chapter II of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences). Fair pay is due. Remuneration is divided into four equal parts:

  • personal purchases
  • assistance on leaving prison (this sum is returned to the prisoner upon release from prison)
  • where applicable: payment of fines, compensating civil parties and other penal obligations
  • where applicable: payment of family support

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis


In most cases, prisoners are paid on an hourly basis.

Their income is subject to social contributions


Social insurance contributions vary from one job to the next.

Private companies are not governed by labour law. They are free to integrate social inclusion and social protection mechanisms.

Work in the general interest (useful to the functioning of the establishment – kitchen, maintenance, laundry, etc.) paid for by the administration, is covered by workplace injury and sickness compensation.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions


Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training

Ministry of Education and Higher Education

Outside entities participate in education in the prison environment (article 71 of the Regulations). These organisations must have received approval.

Education is provided

in all establishments

The prison service implements measures to fight illiteracy


The services responsible for the enforcement of sentences inform the prisoners of work opportunities. Compulsory education shall be given as a priority to young prisoners or persons with literacy or numeracy needs (article 38 of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences).

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


Vocational training is provided


The availability of occupational training programmes varies from one facility to the next. Vocational training courses are set up according to the needs and resources of each establishment. Priority is given to the training of young prisoners (article 40 of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences).

Distance courses are available


Class attendance counts as work. As such, the prisoner receives a gratuity (article 39 of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences).

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs


Prisoners should be given the opportunity to keep themselves informed of “relevant public events”, in particular by having access to newspapers, magazines, books, radio and television broadcasts (article 74 of the Code for the enforcement of punishment). Each warden remains free to adjust this general rule accordingly. Access to the media varies according to the institutions.

Prisoners have access to a television


Prisoners have access to a radio


Prisoners have access to the press


The written press is available in the library or by individual purchase.

The prison service allows access to Internet


Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


The freedom of conscience, religion and worship of the prisoner is guaranteed by law. The right to religious assistance and the practice of acts of worship must be respected. The right to the assistance of a religious minister and the right to possess religious objects may be restricted only for reasons of order and security.

Religious assistance takes place outside normal visiting hours (See section on Visitation rights). In the event of serious illness of the prisoner, derogations may be granted to extend or add religious visits (Title X of the code for sentence enforcement: religious assistance)

Dedicated places of worship are available

in all establishments

Each prison has at least one room dedicated to the practice of worship. A single room can be used for the practice of several religions, which sometimes makes the practice of these religions complicated. The same room is sometimes used for prayer as well as for worship.

There are chaplains in the prisons

varies depending on the religions

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.

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities


The DGRSP has a list of organizations authorized to enter prison.

The workers respond in particular to the need for sports and socio-cultural activities.

External intervenors are mobilized to carry out specific programmes for reintegration (awareness of domestic violence, psychological well-being, responsibility and road safety).1.

  1. Directorate General for reintegration and penal services , “Report on activities and self-assessment, 2017”, 2018 pp. 233-236. 

The DGRSP is required to accompany prisoners upon their release. Associations are also involved, such as “O Companheiro” or “a Obra Vicentina”.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

in an account

The nominative account is funded by the prisoner, when he has paid work, by his relatives, by the pension or retirement he receives.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


The institution may provide clothing and hygiene products for indigent prisoners and/or for the child in care.

The prison administration is required to contribute to the costs of communication between indigent persons and their relatives. It provides four stamps and two five-minute calls per month.