Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)
The authorities publish official statistics on prison population
on a regular basis, every 15 days
The prison service has a computerised record keeping system
Total number of prisoners
Figures excluding the 155 persons placed in psychiatric institutions
Number of people serving non-custodial sentences
This figure represents 71% of the sentences currently running up to this date.
Number of admissions
Number of releases
Average length of imprisonment (in months)
Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities
Overpopulation affects institutions of average complexity.
In November 2018, there were 21 highly complex establishments holding 10,262 people. The rate of prison occupancy for these establishments is 96.2%. In November 2018, the 27 less complex establishments, held 2,672 people. The rate of occupancy is 109.6%1.
The country has been condemned by an international court for its prison overcrowding
Neither the European Court of Human Rights nor any other international body has passed a judgment against Portugal on overpopulation in prisons or on the conditions of imprisonment. Certain individuals have recently lodged complaints on the basis of article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (prohibition of torture), regarding the material conditions of their detention 1. These recent complaints have now all been addressed, and the Portuguese government has paid compensation to the individuals (between €4,500 and €14,000).
For examples, see the cases of Bokor vs. Portugal, Dragan vs. Portugal, Butuc vs. Portugal, Dumitru vs. Portugal and Patenaude vs. Portugal. ↩
A supervisory body has issued a decision on prison overcrowding
The MNP and the Ombudsman regularly deliver statements on prison overpopulation. A statement on this topic appears on a regular basis in the MNP’s reports. The reports from the CPT also make reference to overpopulation.
Name of authority in charge of the prison service
Ministry of Justice
Budget of the prison service
238 395 085
Percentage of the ministerial budget allocated to the prison service
The prison service outsources the management of the facilities to private companies, either partially or fully
Prison management falls within the remit of the Directorate General of Reintegration and Prison Services (DGRSP). Delegation of management is sometimes authorised, mainly for catering facilities and health services.
The Special Penitentiary Establishment of Santa Cruz do Bispo for Women is operating under delegated management under a pilot scheme. The Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto charitable institution manages health services, catering, maintenance, spiritual guidance, education and vocational training. The DGRSP retains control over the management of the establishment, its security (prison staff) and the prison register.
The Portuguese prison service is placed under the authority of the General Directorate of Reintegration and Prison Services (DGRSP). Sentences, whether custodial or not, have been managed by a single department since 2012 (Legal Decree n° 63/2012).
There are three detention regimes:
- the common regime
- the open regime
- the security regime
Article 12 of the Code of enforcement of custodial sentences and measures states the technical details and characteristics for each regime.
Persons detained under the common regime serve their sentence in high-security establishments or facilities. Activities and communal life take place within the prison facility.
Persons detained under an open regime serve their sentence in medium-security establishments or facilities. Engagement with the outside community is encouraged. There are two facets to the open regime:
- The “open regime on the inside” whereby activities take place within the establishment (or close by) and are subject to direct and continuous surveillance.
- The “open regime on the outside” whereby activities take place outside the facility and do not require surveillance.
Persons detained under the security regime serve their sentence in ‘special’ establishments or facilities. Daily life, activities and links to the outside community are limited. Review of this form of custody takes place every six months (every three months for youths under 21). The decision to place or maintain a person under the security regime or to end such detention is taken by the director of the DGRSP.
The DGRSP distinguishes between two types of prison establishment following the criteria of “complexity of management” :
- Highly complex establishments
- Establishments of average complexity Complexity of management is defined by the level of security - special, high or medium - the implemented programmes, the characteristics of the population and the number of people who stay there (circular n°13/2013).
The approved school of Leiria houses minors and young adults. Eight educational centres cater to minors aged 12 to 16 committed to public education (See section on minors)
Total number of prison facilities
Total official capacity of the prison facilities
The size of Portuguese prisons varies according to the type of facility.
Medium-security prisons hold up to 350 places. The Cadeia de Apoio da Horta (Support prison of Horta), administratively part of Prison Angra do Heroísmo, is the smallest prison (17 places).
High-security prisons range from 169 (Súbal Prison) to 887 places (Lisbon Prison).
Prison facilities are accessible by public transport
The majority of prisons are located in town centres.
Number of prison guards (FTE)
Guard to prisoner ratio
1 : 3
Number of socio-educational workers (FTE)
The prison staff is represented by (a) union(s)
The Sindicato Nacional do Corpo da Guarda Prisional (National association of prison officers) is the majority trade union.
For prison officers, access to the profession is subject to competitive examinations and training, under the authority of the Ministry of Justice (Prison Officers Statute).
Training includes theoretical and on-the-job practical training lasting six months with sandwich courses. Competitive examinations are open to candidates who satisfy the following requirements:
- Portuguese nationals
- aged from 21 to 28 in the year of the competitive examination
- measuring at least 1.60 metres for females or 1.65 metres for males
- holding the equivalent of the secondary school diploma (usually obtained at 18, at the end of compulsory education)
- with no criminal record
- in “good physical condition”
- up-to-date for all the mandatory vaccinations
The functions of prison staff are the following:
- surveillance staff (Corpo da Guarda Prisional - CGP), constitute the greater majority of personnel (63.2% in 2017)
- administrative staff (data processing, registrar, financial management…)
- socio-educational staff
- health personnel