Alternative to prison sentence debated

PRISON SENTENCES up to two years could be substituted for community service once the new penal code has been approved in Parliament.

Conde Rodrigues, Secretary of State for Justice, said people who commit crimes need to be punished “but prison is not the only solution”. Those who have been sentenced to up to a year in prison, for such crimes as traffic violations, can already have their sentences substituted for community service by judges, in an effort to combat the worsening problem of overcrowded jails.

Another reason for substituting sentences for community service is to facilitate reinsertion of offenders back into society.

It was in 1996 that prison sentences up to a year were dropped in favour of community service. The work could be anything from sweeping streets to weeding gardens, for public and private entities, as long as the outcome is beneficial to the community. The hours worked could be from 36 to 380 hours, depending on the sentence, and carried out on any day of the week including weekends and holidays.

If the convicted person refuses to carry out the work or commits another crime, the court could order that the entire sentence be served behind bars.


Since 1996, more than 8,700 people who were sentenced to up to a year in prison in the Algarve had their sentences substituted for community service and 664 initiatives have been executed to help the bombeiros, câmaras, juntas de freguesia and the Ria Formosa nature reserve, among other private and public entities.

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