Latest updates

Infectious diseases are most prevalent in Portuguese prisons. As of December 2017, 2,017 prisoners were affected by HIV or hepatitis (B and C). Hepatitis C affects 58.3% of this group 1.

  1. Directorate General for reintegration and penal services, “Report on activities and self-assessment, 2017”, 2018, p. 74. 

  • Seventy-two prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 in Lisbon prison. They were separated from the rest of the prison population and were placed under the permanent supervision of the medical personnel. Visits and activities were suspended in the facility. In Braga prison, four prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 on 10 February. All of them were placed in quarantine. A total of 82 prison officers tested positive for COVID-19 around the country.

    / Expresso

The law provides for a sentence adjustment for medical reasons


Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail

yes, under certain conditions

The prisoner may, at their own expense, send and receive letters (article 67 of the Code of Execution of Sentences).

  • In January, visits were suspended in the prisons of Porto, Carregueira and Guarda. The last two were placed under quarantine.


Variation in the number of prisoners

decreased by 11.4%

between january 2020 and january 2021

  • The 9/2020 regulation on the release of prisoners has “significantly” contributed in reducing their number. Compared to 2019, the prison population has decreased by 10%.

    / The Portugal News

Collective movements are recorded


  • Around 120 prisoners revolted in block C of the high-security prison Vale de Judeus in Azambuja. They refused to eat, demanding the return of one of their fellow inmates, who was accused of assaulting three guards. The protest movement was suppressed by the Intervention Group of the Penitentiary Services (GISP).

    / CM Jornal Portugal

Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities


  • The Portuguese association for the support of prisoners (APAR) criticised overcrowding in the Ponta Delgada prison. The claim was corroborated by the authorities, who counted 46 prisoners in one dormitory in May. Twenty-five have since been relocated. In response to overpopulation and the state of disrepair in the current prison estate, policymakers have decided to build new prisons. Construction is expected to be completed in 2027.

    / Diario de Noticias
  • High-complexity establishments held 9,039 people in January 2021. The occupancy rate of these establishments is 84%. In January 2020, average-complexity establishments, held 2,195 people. The occupancy rate is 99%.

    / General Directorate of Reintegration and Prison Services, "Biweekly statistics by type of establishment"

Free screening tests are offered periodically to prisoners (article 61 of the Regulations).

  • Mask wearing became mandatory in January 2021 throughout Porto prison in order to prevent transmitting COVID-19.

    / Sapo

Preventative measures for epidemics and contagious diseases are implemented. The warden may, on the advice of the medical service, remove a contagious person.
Each prison develops and submits a plan for health promotion and disease prevention to the Directorate General. This plan focuses particularly reducing risk behaviour.
A doctor (or other qualified person) carries out regular inspections of prisons. Recommendations are submitted to the warden. These recommendations concern the food that is distributed, hygiene and cleanliness of the facility, sanitation, heating and ventilation. If the warden of the institution ignores the recommendations, the physician may refer the matter to the Directorate General (DGRSP) (article 37 of the Code for the enforcement of punishment).

  • Prison Services began a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for prisoners following the detection of 70 cases in Lisbon prison.

    / CM Portugal

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

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls


Detainees may make calls at their own expense. They may receive calls in the case of particularly important personal or professional situations.
The general regulations of each institution may have restrictions on prisoners placed under a security regime. Decisions to restrict calls are the responsibility of the prison director.

  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, the prison authorities have tripled the number of telephone calls that prisoners are allowed to make.

    / Europris