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. Monsanto Prison is the only ‘special security’ facility of the ‘supermax’ type 1.

  1. European Prison 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 occur: pat-down and naked strip search.

All searches are logged in a register

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).

Body cavity searches are conducted by a physician


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).

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

  • electronic devices

  • pat-downs

A full body search of relatives is prohibited (article 63 of the Execution of Sentences Code and the Measures of Detention).

Professionals who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

  • electronic devices

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

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


GISP conducts prison officers’ special operations. The principal 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 escort “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.

Number of escapes



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

  • Placement in the disciplinary block

  • 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 to 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 common disciplinary procedure, the warden assesses the advisability of opening an investigation with regard to the identification of the perpetrator. If the facts are, in their 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 163 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. They 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 a sentence adjustment. If the lawyer may accompany the prisoner during the sentence adjustment hearing, they do not have the right to express themselves.

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 punitive 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

The decision to place a prisoner in solitary confinement is subject to adversarial debate. The prisoner is informed, upon their disciplinary proceedings, by their lawyer of the details of their defence case. They can also make an appeal before the Execution of Sentences Judge (article 110 of the Execution of Sentences Code).

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited


The maximum duration for solitary confinement in one’s own cell is 30 days, 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.

Prisoners placed in solitary confinement are entitled to one hour of exercise outside the cell per day.
They spend 22 hours in their cell. This can be increased to 23 hours, upon the warden’s decision, when the space required for individual ‘yard time’ is unavailable (articles 173 and 174 of the Regulations).

The continuity of activities, work or training of prisoners in solitary confinement is not always ensured.
The prison warden may authorise prisoners assigned to their own cell to continue academic or vocational training. Prisoners placed in disciplinary cells are denied these activities, however.

Whether or not family ties can be maintained depends on the 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. A prisoner in solitary confinement is also denied access to a telephone. However, the prisoner is allowed to communicate with their lawyer and a chaplain.