Prisons in Portugal
Portuguese prisons have an evolving 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 several 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.
Since 1985, the number of prisoners exceeds the available detention places: the occupancy level at the end of 2016 was at, on average, 109%*; in some prisons up to 170%.
By European comparison, Portugal has 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
|UK: England & Wales||112%||148|
* 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 (11th edition, 2016), Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR). www.prisonstudies.org