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Total official capacity of the prison facilities


In January 2019, the country had 685 places in facilities for women.

/ Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 37-39.
  • As of 2019, most of Tunisia’s prison facilities are dilapidated buildings dating back to the colonial period. They are often humid and unsanitary old colonial structures that suffered significant damage during the 2011 revolutionary uprising.

    With the support of international actors, the Tunisian government is undertaking a reconstruction and modernisation programme with the following goals [^epu]:

    • The renovation of damaged facilities
    • An increase in the capacity of the prisons at Sfax, Mahdia, Messadine, Monastir, Gabès, Mornaguia and Borj El Amri
    • The opening of a new semi-open facility with a capacity of 500 places in February 2020
    • The opening of a new facility in 2020 in the city of Béja
    • Renovation works at the Bourj al-Roumi prison, including 1000 new places, to be completed in 2021

    With the completion of these construction works, prisoners are to be housed together in barracks. Space in which to walk, work, or engage in social and educational activities will remain limited.

    Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Concluding observations on the third periodic reports of Tunisia, 9 June 2017, pp. 6-7.

Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)


  • The use of illicit drugs, namely cannabis (zatla), remains one of the principal reasons for incarceration, despite the modification of the drugs act (Law 52) and the elimination of the one-year mandatory sentence.
    Short sentences (one week to six months) are issued for crimes such as the issuing of bad cheques, public drunkenness, or the sale of alcohol without a licence. Three in four prisoners are incarcerated for the following crimes: theft (31%), drug use or trafficking (26%), and other offences (17%), namely the issuing of bad cheques. In 2018, those serving sentences of at least one year numbered 12,639, which is 54.5% of the incarcerated population. 1

    1. Lawyers without Borders, “Lutter contre la surpopulation carcérale en Tunisie”, September 2019, p. 3-4. 

    Lawyers without Borders

Education is available for all prisoners


The Ministry of Justice promotes educational activities in prisons. Half of prisoners have a level of education less than or equal to primary school. Prisoners who wish to enrol in academic or vocational training must submit a written application to the prison management. They take the prisoner’s engagement and behaviour into account.

  • Few courses are accessible in practice. During the year 2018-2019, prisoners undertaking teaching modules make up 3.9% of the total number of inmates.

    / Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, "Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien", November 2019, p. 159.

Transgender prisoners are entitled to customised searches


According to several witness statements, transgender women are subjected to “forced” searches by male prison staff.

  • A transgender woman, who has been arrested and imprisoned three times, reported to Lawyers without Borders that such searches had been less invasive during her most recent arrest. This could be explained by a mobilisation of civil society, both on a national and international level, organised between 2017 and 2018 to condemn such searches.

    / All Out

The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned


Homosexuality is punishable by law (Article 230 of the Penal Code). LGBTI prisoners may be arrested for acts of indecency and public morality (Article 226 and 226A), prostitution (Article 231), and pimping (Article 232).

  • During the 2019 universal periodic review before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Tunisian state reported that 15 people were imprisoned between 2013 and 2017 for male homosexuality, and one person was imprisoned between 2015 and 2016 for female homosexuality.
    The Civil Collective for Individual Liberties notes 120 proceedings for homosexuality in 2018.