Statistics from the CoE that compare the situation in prisons across the 47 member states that it comprises, found that Portugal has a higher-than-average rate of overcrowding and also has an inmate death rate that is significantly above the European average.
The European average for prison deaths was of 26.3 deaths per 10,000 inmates, whereas in Portugal that number went up to 50.
The murder of an inmate at a prison in Linhó, Sintra, at the beginning of this year will contribute to upcoming figures, though illness and suicide have been found to be the main causes behind Portugal’s “abnormally high” prison death rate.
According to newspaper Publico, the high number of deaths in Portugal’s jails has been an ongoing tendency in the Council of Europe’s Annual Criminal Statistics since 1997.
The 2014 CoE report looks at data from 2012 from each country, as well as taking into account figures from 2011.
While Italy, France and Spain have rates that are close to or lower than the European average, Portugal’s rate is closer to figures found in Eastern Europe, in countries such as the Ukraine, where the inmate death rate is of 63.6, and Armenia (70); is higher than Bulgaria’s (46.7), and is much higher than in Romania (29.5) or Hungary (22.4).
A recent national report into Portugal’s prisons found that more wardens are needed, while the CoE established that the number of inmates grew between 2008 and 2013 to the point of overcrowding in some of the country’s prisons.
In 2013, according to national figures, 62 inmates died in Portugal’s 49 prisons, 49 through illness and 13 by suicide, and 66 died in 2012, 50 through illness and the rest took their own lives.
The last time a murder was registered in a Portuguese jail was in 2011.