Publico newspaper has reported on 24th July that in 2014, there were 180 people serving sentences of imprisonment at home with electronic monitoring, according to the annual report of the probation service, currently included in the Welfare Directorate General and Correctional Services. This type of substitution penalty was introduced in criminal law in 2007 and has been increasingly applied. Last year alone the probation services, responsible for the management of electronic surveillance, received 109 new requests under the so-called “on-call system in the room.”
This option is available for cases in which the judge imposes a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year and may be extended to sentences of less than two years and “are verified at the time of conviction, circumstances of personal or family nature of the convict who advise against deprivation of liberty in prison. ” The law specifies a number of situations such as pregnancy, age less than 21 or greater than 65 or the existence of family responsibilities.
The Deputy Director Welfare of the Directorate General and Correctional Services (DGRSP), Licinio Lima, said that 67 people currently serving prison sentences at home. “The number is too low and this also has to do with the law which allows this possibility to those who are sentenced to less than or equal to one year,” he says. He regrets that there are “a lot of people in prison who have no criminal history, but are arrested for not paying fines or because they have been caught more than once driving without legal authorization.”
The official points out that they “are not inherently criminal, but run the risk of becoming so in prison.” The DGRSP, he said, has a proposal ready for a prison sentence in housing to be extended to individuals with sentences up to two years and with the possibility to attend activities and programs outside the home.
The report, to which the PUBLICO had access, does not specify the types of crimes where this penalty was applied, but the teacher of the Law School of the University of Porto Andre Leite, who is doing his doctorate on this topic, exemplifies some: Road crimes, shoplifting and bodily harm. “The alternatives to imprisonment wish to avoid contact with the prison environment, because since the nineteenth century it is known that this contact is criminógeno” he explains.
Directorate-General for Justice Statistics Policy show that between 2007 and 2013, the prison housing was applied 513 times.
The report of the reintegration services reports that last year, there was an increase of 33% in the use of electronic bracelets to monitor the ban on contacts associated with domestic violence. In 2014, there were 327 applications compared with 245 the previous year. Licinio Lima justifies the increase with the fact that the “Portuguese society is very sensitive to the crime of domestic violence.”The Deputy Director also highlighted that in addition to the 590 prisoners who are currently in jail for crimes in this regard, “about 600 are integrated into psycho-educational programs.”
The document also reveals that, in 2014, 116 young people were on the waiting list to meet an internment in an educational center. The main reason may have been the end of the Educational Center of Santa Clara, in Vila do Conde, which had a capacity of 48 places, which have reduced the total number of vacancies in these centers that seek to reintegrate minors who have committed criminal offenses.