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Penal System

The Portuguese penal system was under the control of the minister of justice. Portugal had thirty-nine prisons and three military prisons as of 1988. The civilian prisons included twelve central prisons, twenty-four regional prisons, and three special institutions. Their total capacity was 7,633, and the actual population as of December 31, 1987, was 8,361. Of this total, 6,964 were adult males, 475 were adult females, and 922 were youths under the age of twenty-one. There were 186 military prisoners. The prison population had remained fairly stable between 1984 and 1988. By far the largest institutions were the central prisons, which had a total capacity of 4,870. The regional prison capacity was 1,758; the special prison, 706; and the military prisons, 299.

Seven reformatories held 457 male youths, and 211 female juveniles were detained at three institutions. The remainder were assigned to observation and social action centers at Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra.

The average time served in prisons by adult males was about six months. The incarceration ratio in 1990 was 83 per 100,000 population, comparable to the ratios in neighboring Spain and France but only one-fifth that of the United States.

The type of prison regime to which an offender was sentenced was designated by the district punishment court upon conviction. Youthful offenders were given opportunities to learn trades. The mastery of a trade while in prison and good behavior were considered in reducing time spent in prison. Individuals convicted three times of the same crime were considered a danger to society and were not usually eligible for parole. Unlike other prisoners, who might be allowed to do farm work, they could be kept to a strict prison regime. All prisoners earned money for their work while in prison, and work was considered a necessary part of the rehabilitation process.

Occasional complaints of individual mistreatment by police and prison authorities were investigated by the ombudsman. In 1985 a number of FP-25 prisoners engaged in periodic hunger strikes and other protests against prison conditions. A stricter regime was imposed on those remaining after ten FP-25 members accused of common crimes escaped from Lisbon's main penitentiary. The United States State Department's human rights reports asserted that no independent evidence had appeared confirming the inadequacy of prison conditions.

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Among various studies analyzing Portugal's national security objectives, a particularly incisive treatment is "Portuguese Defense Policy," by Alvaro Vasconcelos. Appraising the armed forces' modernization program since the early 1980s, Vasconcelos also discusses Portugal's changing goals during several phases of its membership in the NATO alliance. Portuguese Defense and Foreign Policy Since Democratization, edited by Kenneth Maxwell, contains a number of valuable essays on Portugal's defense policy. A full account of the involvement of the Portuguese armed forces in the political events of 1974-75 can be found in Douglas Porch's The Portuguese Armed Forces and the Revolution. Richard Alan Hodgson Robinson's Contemporary Portugal addresses the relationship between the political and military leadership during the Salazar and Caetano eras and through the revolution. Works by Tom Gallagher and Thomas C. Bruneau add observations on the interaction between the military and civilian politicians into the 1980s. The Portuguese justice system and the status of civil rights are briefly surveyed in the United States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Data on the size, organization, and armaments of the Portuguese armed forces can be found in The Military Balance, 1991-92, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, supplemented by information in Jane's Fighting Ships, DMS Market Intelligence Reports, and occasional reports in the Portuguese press. Jane's NATO Handbook, 1990-91, contains additional information on the Portuguese defense establishment and on Portuguese links to NATO and IBERLANT. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).

Data as of January 1993

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Portugal Table of Contents