Security, order, and discipline

Security functions are fulfilled by

the penitentiary administration

Some prison facilities, units or cells implement high-security measures


High-security facilities have disciplinary blocks with reinforced security.

The Monsanto prison is the only ‘special security’ establishment, of the ‘supermax’ type1.

  1. European Prisons Observatory, “Prison conditions in Portugal”, 2013, p. 14. 

Prisoners are classified according to their supposed level of dangerousness


The classification of prisoners is revised

every 6 months

Prisoners living in high-security conditions undergo a review of their classification every six months, or every three months for those prisoners under 21 years of age.

Body search procedures follow specific guidelines established by article 152 of the Regulations.

Different types of body searches are in use: pat-down and naked strip search.

All searches are logged in a register

  • electronic devices
  • pat-downs

A full body search of relatives is prohibited (article 63 of the Code governing the enforcement of sentences).

Body cavity searches are conducted by a physician


Professionals are subject to a safety checks by metal detectors. They are also required to present their open bags or similar objects for visual inspection.

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

in some cases

Full body searches are recorded in writing: the day, time, place, reason, identification of the personnel involved and the results must appear in a register (article 152 of the Regulations).

Professionals who enter the prison are searched using the following methods


Internal body probes (body cavity searches) may take place, at the request of the warden, with the authorization of the Court for the Execution of Sanctions and the agreement of the doctor (article 152 of the Regulations).

The use of means of restraint, such as handcuffs, is permitted when the goal is to avoid acts of violence (against other persons or oneself) and for matters of institutional order and safety. If the use of handcuffs exceeds one hour, the detained person must be presented to a doctor. The latter evaluates whether or not it is appropriate to continue the measure with regard to the person’s health

Means of restraint may not be used as a disciplinary measure.

The use of handcuffs is systematic in the event of a transfer. The person is handcuffed, unless otherwise authorized by the warden of the establishment.

Persons detained in Monsanto Prison (security regime) are handcuffed during internal displacement

Security staff carry

  • firearms
  • non-lethal weapons

A special intervention unit is in charge of restoring order


The GISP conducts prison officers’s special operations. The main missions of the GISP are (article 29 of the Status of Prison Supervisory Staff) :

  • To carry out preventive or repressive law enforcement actions in prisons.
  • To ecort “dangerous” and “high-risk” prisoners.
  • To ensure transfer over long distances.
  • To ensure the safety of members of the general management.

There is no policy to prevent religious radicalization. The people identified as radicalized are put in solitary confinement.

Prisoners are, in the event of protest movements, subject to disciplinary sanctions:

  • placement in the disciplinary district,
  • confinement to one’s own cell
  • the removal of visits

Breaches of discipline are clearly defined in writing


The disciplinary system is governed by the General Regulations for Prisons (Legislative Decree no. 51/2011 of April 2011). The Regulation embodies the fundamental principles of the Code for the Execution of Sentences involving Custody of Liberties.

The possible disciplinary sanctions are:

  • A written warning.
  • A ban on the use of certain personal items (up to 60 days).
  • The prohibition of personal purchases (up to 60 days).
  • Restriction or prohibition from participating in activities (up to 60 days).
  • Reduced walking time (up to 30 days).
  • Confinement in one’s own cell (up to 30 days).
  • Placement in a disciplinary cell (up to 21 days).

Disciplinary offences are investigated

in some cases

There are two types of disciplinary proceedings:

  • the common disciplinary procedure
  • the accelerated disciplinary procedure

In the context of a joint disciplinary procedure, the warden assesses the advisability of opening an investigation with regard to the identification of the perpetrator. If the facts are,in his opinion, indisputable and the person is identified, there is no investigation. If there is any doubt, an investigation may be opened. The principal of the school appoints an instructor. The investigation is completed within a maximum of 10 days (article 63 of the Regulations).

In an accelerated procedure, there is no investigation. The accelerated procedure applies when the detained person is caught in flagrante delicto and acknowledges the facts (articles 163 to 168 of the Regulations).

The decision to apply a disciplinary sanction must be subject to an adversarial debate


Prisoners are allowed to be assisted by a lawyer


The decision to impose a disciplinary sanction is the responsibility of the warden. The warden is not obliged to apply the measure proposed by the investigation instructor. He may request the opinion of the technical council of the establishment (article 167 of the Regulations).

Prisoners may appeal against disciplinary sanctions


Disciplinary sanctions can be imposed as a collective punishment


Disciplinary sanctions have an impact on the length of the sentence. Disciplinary sanctions are taken into account by the judge in charge of the enforcement of sentences when making a request for adjustment of the sentence. If the lawyer may, during the sentence adjustment hearing, accompany the prisoner he or she does not have the right to express himself or herself.

Disciplinary sanctions can have an impact on the detention regime. The incidence is not automatic. The warden may suspend the open regime for prisoners involved in disciplinary proceedings. The decision is then submitted to the Directorate General (DGRSP) for ratification (article 191 of the Regulations).

Solitary confinement can be used as

  • punishment
  • protection
  • security

Isolation as a drastic measure can take two forms:

  • confinement in cells
  • placement in a disciplinary cell

Isolation as a protective and security measure can take two forms:

Solitary confinement is decided

the prison warden

This decision is subject to adversarial debate.

The prisoner is informed, upon his/her disciplinary proceedings, by his/her lawyer the details of his/her defence case. S/he can also make an appeal in front of the Execution of Sentences Judge (article 110 of the Execution of Sentences Code).

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited


The maximal duration of a solitary confinement is 30 days for confinement to one own’s cell and 21 days for confinement in a disciplinary cell (article 113 of the Execution of Sentences Code).

Solitary confinement can be extended


Solitary confinement, as part of a disciplinary measure, takes place in a controlled environment where security measures are reinforced.

Inmate placed in solitary confinement is entitled to a daily hour of exercise outside the cell. S/he spends a full 22 or 23 hours in his/her cell before being placed in solitary confinement, depending on the decision of the Warden. During this time, the prisoner is refrained from having ‘yard time’ as well (articles 173 and 174 of the Regulations).

The maintenance of the activities, work or training of the prisoners in solitary confinement is not always ensured. The Prison Warden may authorise the prisoner assigned to his/her own cell to continue vocational training if granted. However, prisoners placed in disciplinary cells are refrained from doing so.

The visiting regime varies according to this type of isolation.

The confinement regime allows the prisoner to meet with relatives, however, a visit cannot exceed one hour per week, outside normal hours.

A prisoner placed in a disciplinary cell cannot receive any visitors, unless authorised by the Warden under special circumstances. However, the prisoner is allowed to communicate with his/her lawyer and a Chaplain.

A prisoner in solitary confinement is refrained from outside contact or any visits, with the exception of his/her lawyer.