Special populations

Number and percentage of female prisoners

6.4 % (815)

Variation in the number of female prisoners

decreased by 4.8%

856 women were incarcerated by January 2018.


Percentage of untried female prisoners

27.9 % (227)

Percentage of foreign female prisoners

21.1 % (172)

There are two prisons for women:

Four establishments have female quarters:

  • Angra do Heroísmo Prison

  • de Guarda Prison

  • Ponta Delgada Prison

  • The Penitentiary Hospital of São João de Deus

There is an effective separation between men and women


Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison staff is

mostly female

Searches are carried out by female personnel.

The specific needs of women - access to feminine hygiene products and gynecological consultations - are taken care of.

Women have access to activities, training, and work.

Conjugal visits are allowed for women

yes, strong ties must be supported

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells


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


A prison sentence of less than two years may be arranged for pregnant women.

Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Childbirth takes place in

an external care facility

Female prisoners give birth in hospital (section 34 of the Code for the enforcement of sentences).

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, for up to 3 years

Women are allowed to keep their children with them until the age of three. This option can be extended, in exceptional cases, up to the age of five 1. Spaces are set up to accommodate children.
The law allows incarcerated fathers to keep their children near them with the same age conditions. There are no reported cases.

  1. European Prison Observatory, “Prison conditions in Portugal“, 2013, p. 30. 

Those incarcerated with their children have separate accommodations from others.

Surveillance personnel tasked with welcoming children wear uniforms.

The specific needs of children - food, clothing, healthcare, activities - are taken care of by the prison administration.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

16 years

Incarcerated minors

0.6 % (72)

Variation in the number of incarcerated minors

increased by 71%

42 as of Dec 31, 2017.


Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice

The law permits minors to be placed in educational centres (for ages 12 to 16) or to be imprisoned (for ages 16 and over). The regimes available to minors in educational centres vary according to the severity of the offence committed:

  • In open regimes: the minor is authorized to leave the educational centre alone, according to schedules fixed beforehand. They can join family on weekends and benefit from 15 consecutive vacation days.

  • In semi-open regimes: the minor is authorized to leave the educational centre accompanied by an educator. They do not return home on weekends and have 15 consecutive vacation days.

  • In closed regimes: the minor is unable to leave the educational centre.

Only one establishment is dedicated to minors aged 16 and over and young adults up to 21 years of age: the “school prison” of Leiria. This one has 347 spots. The length of the sentence can be extended up to 25 years in this establishment. Placement within is not subject to any legal framework.
The choice to assign a minor to Leiria prison or an adult prison is at the discretion of the DGRSP. This results in the non-separation of minors from adults [^ 8] [^ 9].
Offenders aged 12 to 16 are placed in an educational centre, where they can remain until the age of 21 [^ 10].

Les centres éducatifs sont au nombre de huit :

  • Bela Vista educational centre

  • Navarro de Paiva educational centre (girls)

  • Navarro de Paiva educational centre (boys)

  • Olivais educational centre

  • Padre António Oliveira educational centre

  • Santa Clara educational centre (girls)

  • Santa Clara educational centre (boys)

  • Santo António educational centre

The general and disciplinary regulations of educational centres, as of 20 December 2000, outlines the legal basis of the organization. It defines the competencies and functions of these centres, which each have their own regulations.

Figures on minors in prison are published


Minors in prison are separated from adults


The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors


The schooling of minors is compulsory


Educational and vocational training programmes are mandatory.

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


Minors can be placed in solitary confinement, including in educational centres.

Specific activities are provided for minors in educational centres.

A case management guide, based on the RNR model (Risks, Needs, Responsivity), is given to each educator. Programmes called PEP (personal educational project) are set up in educational centres [^ 11]. These are intended for monitoring educational measures and evaluations. The projects are operated on a voluntary basis by young prisoners. They can be medical projects, collaborative projects with children’s entertainment centres, or even manual crafts.

Incarcerated minors also participate in several educational projects, some of which are compulsory and apply to all centres. Here is a list:

  • Prevention and rehabilitation programme for young people with deviant behaviour

  • Everyday life skills programme

  • Suicide prevention programme

  • Drug prevention programme

Each educational centre also chooses to develop its own projects [^ 12].

Support for work, training, and socio-educational activities is provided upon leaving the educational centre.

15.4 % (1,959)

Variation in the number of foreign prisoners

decreased of 8.6%

2,144 foreigners were incarcerated by 31 December 2017.


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

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


A detained foreigner may, upon entry, inform their embassy or consulate of their arrest. They are granted a free telephone call in order to do so. Foreigners have the right to be kept informed of what happens after this communication.

The foreign detainee may ask to serve their sentence in their country. They must be informed of the option for a transfer and its terms [^ 14].

The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


A summary sheet of the detainee’s rights and duties is translated into the most widely spoken foreign languages (Rule 9 of the Code).

Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter


By law, translation and interpretation services are provided.

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


The right to a lawyer is the same for Portuguese nationals and foreigners.

Staying in the country illegally does not constitute an offence. An illegal alien would not, in principle, be imprisoned. As part of an eviction procedure, they might be placed in a detention centre. A judge must rule on such a placement.

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

under certain conditions

The deportation of foreigners is not systematic. An additional deportation penalty may be applied by court ruling (article 151 of Law 23/2007 on the entry, permanence, exit and removal of foreigners from national territory).

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


Incarcerated foreigners may phone their country at their expense, with the agreement of the director. The persons contacted must have been previously identified and authorized by the director of the establishment. The latter can always arrange the phone calls for foreigners in prison in a discretionary manner.

By decision of the director of the establishment or the director of the DGRSP, arrangements can be made for visitors residing particularly far from the penitentiary establishment.

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of

5 years

Cumulative sentences have a limit


The law calls for non-cumulative sentencing: similar sentences given within the framework of different convictions, are accumulated within the limit of the legal maximum of the highest penalty. Example: if a person commits an offence for which they are sentenced to five years of imprisonment, and if, in the following days, they commit another offence for which they incur two years of imprisonment, the total sentence imposed may not exceed five years.

There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners


It has been observed that establishments with a larger reception capacity and higher levels of security receive those sentenced to long terms. Small establishments receive those with short term sentences.

People serving long sentences are not subject to any particular detention regime.

Life sentences are banned


The maximum penalty is 25 years.

17.3 % (2,211)

Variation in the number of untried prisoners

increased by 3.5%

2,135 people were on remand by 31 December 2017.


Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


The law requires the separation of accused and convicted persons (article 9 of the Code for the execution of sentences and custodial measures).

The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


Bail is not offered as such. The judge, and the judge alone, may, after conviction, decide to arrange a sentence in the form of “bail”. It is up to the judge to convert a prison sentence of less than a year into a fine (see section on sentence adjustments).

The law of 29 August 2007 reformed the framework and limited the duration of pre-trial detention. The maximum duration differs depending on the case. Generally speaking, pre-trial detention cannot exceed 18 months. This period is increased to two years when applied to terrorism-related crimes, organized crime, or crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than eight years. The period of pre-trial detention can be extended up to three years in cases of offences of particular complexity involving several people, and in limited cases (Article 215 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

Pre-trial detention is a coercive measure. Its application can be challenged within 30 days of its ruling (article 219 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
The judge reviews the lawfulness of the pre-trial detention every three months. The detainee may, at any time during this period, request that the judge reconsider their placement in pre-trial detention (article 213 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

The regime for the person placed in pre-trial detention is, as written, the same as that of convicted persons. The same rights are granted. The judge ruling on pre-trial detention may, in the interest of the investigation or for security purposes, decide to limit visits or phone calls. Only the judge is authorized to modify the detention regime for accused persons.

Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed


The Portuguese Constitution prohibits direct and indirect state registration of race and ethnicity data.
Crime statistics group foreign residents, permanent or otherwise, with or without papers, into one generic category [^ 15].

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


Persons belonging to an ethnic or religious group are not subject to any particular detention regime.

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

  • language
  • religion
  • diet
  • culture

Regular religious service, guaranteed by the presence of chaplains in prison, is possible when the number of prisoners professing 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 makes no specific mention of LGBTI persons. In general terms, it provides for the existence of special units for the execution of sentences and deprivation of liberty for persons who are vulnerable or in need of special protection. In general, the allocation of housing and cells takes into account the circumstances of vulnerability.

No special protection is provided for LGBTI persons. More general protection exists for vulnerable persons.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their ID gender

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners


Elderly prisoners (≥60 years)

6.5 % (830)

Out of a total of 12,867 (psychiatric clinics).
The number of elderly prisoners increased by 1.6% over the previous year. As of 31 December 2017, the number of elderly prisoners stood at 817.

Elderly persons are not offered a specific detention regime. However, prison establishments are organized in units according to age groups.

The elderly may be able to benefit from a suspension of their prison sentence from the age of 70 if their state of mental or physical health is no longer compatible with incarceration or if they are no longer capable of understanding the meaning of the sentence they are serving. The measure is only granted in cases 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 inviolable. The death penalty does not apply under any circumstances” (Article 24, Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, 1976). The last execution took place in 1849. Restoring the death penalty is not debatable. A person facing the death penalty in their country cannot be extradited.