Prisons in Portugal
Portuguese prisons have a changing history. Several existing buildings were adapted and transformed into prisons. With the 1867 penitentiary reform, new facilities were built, as in more recent decades. Today, Portugal has dozens of prison buildings converted into cultural facilities.
The current central Portuguese Prison Directorate (Direcção Geral dos Serviços Prisionais – DGRSP) has divided its 49 facilities (estabelecimentos prisionais, EP) into two groups, 21 establishments presenting a high complexity (with 10040 detention places) and 27 with an average complexity (2560 places), without a distinction between facilities for pre-trial detainees and for sentenced inmates.
Between 1985 and the beginning of 2020, the number of prisoners exceeded the available detention places. The Covid-19 pandemic brought the occupancy level on 1st June 2020 down to 85,5%, with some prisons being still overcrowded.
By European comparison, Portugal has still a high prisoner rate**, which may be explained by the large number of long prison sanctions. However, the penal code is currently under revision: a great emphasis is being put on electronic surveillance measures. The intent is to reduce the number of incarcerations.
Sentenced detainees have no obligation to work, and the work possibilities are limited. Everyday life is quite monotonous. The guards (guarda prisional) are regrouped in unions.
Table: Occupancy level and prisoner rate of some selected states
|Germany (March 2020)||81%||71|
|UK: England & Wales (26.6.2020)||106%||133|
* Occupancy level (based on official capacity).
** The prison population rate represents the number of detainees in relation to the population of a country in 100 000.
Source: Prison Population List (mostly 2020), Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR). www.prisonstudies.org