There is a reception area for arriving prisoners

In all establishments

On arrival, the prisoner is placed in a reception unit for a maximum of 15 days.

A copy of the prison regulations is made available to the prisoners


The rules of procedure are available in each library. A summary sheet of the detainee’s rights and duties is given to each entrant.

Cell assignment takes place after the prisoner is assessed upon entry (Rule 18). The assignment takes into account specific positions of vulnerability of the person and possible risks for other prisoners or for the order and security of the establishment.

Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration


The law allows for cases in which the assistance of a lawyer is mandatory (Article 64 of the Criminal Code). Amongst these cases the following are noted:

  • The mandatory presence of a lawyer during interrogations by a judicial authority

  • The mandatory presence of a lawyer during the investigation and hearing

  • The mandatory presence of a lawyer at a hearing held in the absence of the accused

The assistance of a lawyer while the sentence is served is never mandatory. For example, the presence of a lawyer is not mandatory when a disciplinary sanction or solitary confinement is imposed. The presence of a lawyer is independent of the possibility of challenging a decision. Thus, the detained person is not required to be represented by a lawyer during their sentence adjustment proceedings but will always be able to appeal in the event of an unfavourable outcome.

The accused is automatically assisted by an officially appointed lawyer when the latter’s presence is made compulsory by law and when they cannot afford to pay for the services of a lawyer.

Prisoners have access to a legal aid centre


The arrangements for allowing detainees to meet with their lawyers are not satisfactory. It is difficult for the accused and their lawyer to prepare the defence before the trial. The difficulties stem mainly from the constraints of detention. It is, for example, impossible for the lawyer, according to case law, to get the intercepted telephone recordings (which will be presented at the hearing) in order to listen to them with their client.

The presence of a lawyer is not mandatory during police interrogations of sentenced persons. It is required for defendants or when the interrogation is conducted by a judge.

Deaths in custody are logged in a register


The number of deaths is published annually.

Number of deaths in custody


62 men and two women.


Variation in the number of deaths in custody

increased by 18.5%

The number of deaths in custody is 54 in 2018.

Number of deaths attributed to suicide



Variation in the number of suicides

decrease: 2.6%

There were 15 suicides in 2017.

Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)



Suicide rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)



National suicide rate (per 10,000 inhabitants)


14 per 100,000 inhabitants.


The prison service must notify a judicial authority for

any deaths

The director of the establishment must, in the event of violent death or death by an unknown cause, safeguard the place of death and the evidence until the criminal police arrive (section 64 of the code). The death of the detainee is immediately communicated:

  • To the next of kin/family members

  • To the public prosecutor

  • To the judicial police

  • To the inspection services of the General Directorate

  • To health authorities

According to the law, after the death of a prisoner, prison authorities should immediately inform the spouse or next of kin or any other person previously designated by the deceased [^ 1].

Suicide prevention policies are implemented


A suicide risk assessment is performed within 72 hours of admission. Each institution must also develop and implement a plan for suicide prevention measures (section 19 of the code).

The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution and the legislation


The prohibition of torture is enshrined in article 25 of the Constitution and in articles 243 and 244 of the penal code.

The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was

ratified in 1989

All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged


The DGRSP keeps a register of all complaints from detainees alleging violence by staff. Both the NPM and the Ombudsman have access to it. Complaints from detained persons are reported to the audit and inspection service of the DGRSP (serviço de auditoria e inspeção doservços prisionais).

A medical examination is required upon entering the establishment. The doctor must, among other things, look for any sign of injury.
A medical check is mandatory during placement in a disciplinary cell. The date and time are recorded, and any injuries noted are photographed (Article 174 of the Code).

Medical staff do not receive special training to identify signs of torture. Doctors take forensic courses as part of their general training. They can, individually, take the initiative to receive special training in order to identify signs of torture. Such training is neither imposed nor paid for by the prison administration.

Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates


Each establishment is required to keep an official record of violence between detained persons. Statistics regarding violence of any kind are not made public. 1. Prisoners subject to disciplinary proceedings are registered in an internal database specific to each establishment. (articles 173 and 174 of the code).

  1. European Prison Observatory, “Prison conditions in Portugal” 2013, p. 43. 

Number of complaints filed by prisoners against the prison service


Detainees are able to file complaints against the prison administration. The rule contains several provisions:

  • Complaints, petitions, and disputes may be made individually or collectively.

  • Secure boxes placed in all establishments allow for complaints to be filed.

  • Detainees can file a written complaint by post to the attention of the courts or any other national or European authority.

  • Detainees can file complaints with the prison administration, the head supervisor, or the judge.

  • Detainees can file complaints with the complaints registry, which is compulsory in all State institutions (article 177 of the code). 1

  1. European Prison Observatory, “Prison conditions in Portugal” 2013, p. 38. 

  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected the claim filed by a former inmate concerning poor conditions of detention in the prisons of Olhão in 2011 and Vale de Judeus in 2012. The complaint was deemed inadmissible. The State reported that the plaintiff had already been compensated in the amount of €3,500 for emotional distress and €1,200 for legal fees. The Court also rejected as inadmissible a similar complaint concerning the conditions of detention on the premises of the Lisbon police and in the prisons of Caxias and Vale de Judeus in 2014 and 2015.

    / Postal

Complaints from detainees are reported to the audit and inspection service of the DGRSP (serviço de auditoria e inspeção doservços prisionais). Whether a case is open or not is independent of prison administration officers.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was

ratified in 2013

An NPM has been established

yes, in 2013

Name of the NPM

Provedoria de Justica (Ombudsman in English)

The NPM has come into office

yes, in 2014

The NPM was appointed by

the Parliament

The NPM is appointed by Parliament by a two-thirds majority provided that this majority is greater than the absolute majority of the members in office (article 5 of the Statute relating to the ombudsman).

Structure of the NPM

individual body

The Portuguese NPM is an independent administrative authority represented by an individual, João Costa, the only one to hold a full-time position. About 15 people work alongside him part-time. The rest of their time is spent with the Human Rights Defender. This distribution sometimes creates confusion among detainees. By contacting the NPM, they believe they can make an individual request to the human rights defender. A badge system, recently implemented, allows prisoners to distinguish these two missions.

Term of office of the NPM

4 years, renewable once, irrevocable

The NPM is “independent and irremovable and his duties shall not be terminated until the end of his mandate, unless otherwise stated by the law” (article 7 of the Statute relating to the mediator).

The NPM reports are made public


The Ombudsman has until 30 April each year to forward his report to Parliament. This report is published in the Official Journal of Parliament.

The legislation allows the NPM to carry out unannounced visits


The NPM cannot be entered. It is also no longer intended to receive complaints. This function is vested in the Ombudsman. Anyone can draw their attention to a particular issue.

The NPM can monitor all prison facilities, units and premises


The institutions in the autonomous regions (the Azores) are not subject to the inspection and control of the Ombudsman, with the exception of activities carried out under the authority of the Portuguese public administration.

The NPM recommendations are effectively implemented

in some cases

The opinions of the NPM are non-binding recommendations. The NPM has the power to apply public pressure but does not have the power to force the implementation of its recommendations, nor to bring a judge to court.

There is an internal mechanism for monitoring recommendations from the NPM. It is provided by the members of the board. A table lists the observations and findings collected during visits. It records recommendations that have been followed and those that are still in progress.

A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty


European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)

Its reports are made public


The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has visited the country


from 27 September to 7 October 2016 and from 1 to 10 May 2018.

Its report was made public


The report following the visit from 1 to 10 May 2018 is made public 31 May 2019.

The Defender of Rights (Ombudsman) is another mechanism for monitoring prisons. It is mainly responsible for receiving individual requests from detainees.

The law provides for a sentence adjustment system


The sentence can be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced (ab initio)


A prison sentence of less than one year must be adjusted as soon as it is given. It can be converted to a fine or house arrest under electronic surveillance.

A prison sentence of less than two years can be adjusted if the situation of the sentenced person justifies it (pregnancy, serious illness, age - under 21 or over 65 - etc. …) (article 43 of the Penal Code).

A prison sentence of less than one year can also be converted to parole. The person’s consent is required. This arrangement must allow the convicted person to continue their professional activity or studies (article 46 of the Penal Code).

A prison sentence of less than two years can be converted into community service. Each day of imprisonment corresponds to one hour of work. The maximum executable hours is 480. The consent of the sentenced person is necessary (Article 58 of the Penal Code).

A sentence of less than three years, linked to a professional offence, can be replaced by a ban on exercising a profession, a function or an activity (article 43 of the Penal Code).

The sentence can be suspended as soon as it is ruled. This suspension applies as long as the sentence imposed does not exceed five years. The period of suspension has the same duration as the prison sentence but can never be shorter (Article 50 of the Penal Code).

The court can also order a probationary suspension. Probation is mandatory when the offender is under the age of 21, or when the prison sentence is more than three years (Article 54 of the Penal Code).

If the sentenced person does not comply with the obligations related to the adjustment of their sentence, imprisonment becomes enforceable again. The time served during the sentence adjustment is deducted from the time of imprisonment.

The court can still rule on a waiver of sentence. The sentence must be less than six months. The lack of need for a prison sentence must be demonstrated by the judge. Nevertheless, the person is convicted (Article 74 of the Penal Code).

Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration


The sentence may be adjusted during its execution in the form of house arrest under electronic surveillance. The length of the remaining sentence to be served must be less than one year (Article 44 of the Penal Code). No information regarding the possibility of receiving a reduced sentence is available.
Parole may be granted, with the consent of the sentenced person, on three conditions:

  • Half of the sentence has been served.

  • The time already served exceeds six months.

  • The sentenced person must prove their good behaviour during imprisonment.

If the sentence imposed is more than six years’ imprisonment, parole is only possible after five-sixths of the sentence have been served (article 61 of the Penal Code).

There is a mechanism for “adaptation” to parole. It allows the sentenced person to request release one year before the established legal limit. During this adaptation period, the sentenced person is subjected to house arrest under electronic surveillance.

Prisoners can contest a negative decision of sentence adjustment


The detainee may appeal the decision not to adjust their sentence. The appeal is made to the judge responsible for the execution of sentences.

Specific categories of prisoners are ineligible for sentence adjustment


The law provides for a temporary release system


The detainee may benefit from a temporary judicial release (granted by a judge) or a temporary administrative release (granted by the prison administration) (article 76 of the Code for the execution of sentences and custodial measures).

Temporary administrative release is permitted for the maintenance of family ties, for the performance of a specific activity, or under special circumstances for an urgent or important event.

The accompaniment of a prison guard is mandatory when the temporary release entails:

  • A court appearance/participation in an investigation

  • A visit to the hospital (requiring treatment which cannot be provided in the prison)