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This section intends to present the main facts and characteristics of the Portuguese Prison System in a simplified way

The Portuguese Prison System is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, which carries out its tasks at this level through the Direção-Geral de Reinserção e Serviços Prisionais (DGRSP).

The DGRSP has on its mission the development of crime prevention politics, enforcement of penalties and measures of social reinsertion and articulated and complementary management of  educational guardanship and penitentiary, assuring compliant conditions with human dignity and contributing for the defense of both the order and social peace. (Portuguese Law: n.º 1, artigo 12.º, Decreto-Lei n.º 123/ 2011.)

This organisation is run by the Director-General – currently Dr. Celso Manata – assisted by three Deputy Directors-General.. 


Regarding legislation, the Code for the Enforcement of Penalties and  Liberty deprivation Measures (Código da Execução de Penas e Medidas Privativas da Liberdade, approved by Decree-Law 115/ 2009, 12 of October), together with General Regulation of the  Prison Establishments (Regulamento Geral dos Estabelecimentos Prisionais, approved by Decree-Law 51/ 2011, 11 of April), are the most relevant diplomas to understand how the system works.

"The inmate can use his own clothes if kept in good conditions."

nº 1, artigo 30º. Código de Execução de Penas

Inmates are dressed in orange our with stripes?

"The inmate benefits from two one hour personal visit periods, preferably during the weekend."

nº 1, artigo 11º. Regulamento Geral dos Estabelecimentos Prisionais

Can inmate's family and friends visit them every day?

"Small quantities of packaged food are allowed entry once per week, with a maximum weight of 1kg per delivery." 

nº2 artigo 48º Regulamento Geral dos Estabelecimentos Prisionais

Can inmate's visitors (family/friends) take them food?
Government & Courts
The imprisoned population is distributed in 49 Penitentiaries (EPS) throughout the Portuguese Mainland and Islands. These can be male-only, female-only or mixed.
These can also be constituted by one or more units, differentiated as a function of several factors, like the legal status of the inmates, security requirements and available programs, among others.

Taking into account the evaluation of the inmate and its’ evolution during jail time, sentences and measures involving deprivation of liberty are executed under the common, lighter or security regimes.

In accordance with the Code for the Enforcement of Penalties and  Liberty deprivation Measures (Código da Execução de Penas e Medidas Privativas da Liberdade, n.º 1, artigo 12.º) privelege is given to the regimen "that most favours the social reinsertion, safeguarding the risks for the inmate, community and the needs for safety and order".


"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

(Dostoievski, in Crime and Punishment)

In Portugal there are about 14.000 inmates, the majority of them males, of which about 16% are under provisional detention (meaning, they await the trial to learn about their sentence).

The majority of inmates in portuguese prisons hold the portuguese nationality. The total amount of foreign nationality inmates represents 16,7% of the total population, of which 54% are originally from the african continent.

Inmate pop

Inmates have several occupations, either through programs that intend to support the development of the inmate on several levels, frequently provided by Penitentitiaries in partnership with Organizations from the Civil Society; or through classes, that allow the inmates to complete and/or increase the educational levels; or through jobs, that can be provided by the Prison itself or External Entities.


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