Created on Monday, 14 October 2013 00:00
Think about prisons and you get horrific images of dark cells, strict regulations, bulky guards who will not hesitate to abuse their authority, and unfortunate inmates dropping their soap in the shower. There is one prison however, that does not stick to the status quo. The San Antonia prison on Venezuela's Margarita Island is nothing like your standard penal institution, in this prison paradise, prisoners get the run of the place.
The only one rule that they have to abide by is that under no circumstances are they allowed to escape. Any attempts made to flee the institution before completing their sentence will result in immediate death from the sharpshooters keeping watch up in the prison's watchtowers. Other than that, the prisoners are free to do whatever they want from cooking their own food to watching TV, surfing the internet on their laptops and managing illegal businesses on their mobile phones. Most of the prisoners are so contended with living there anyway that hatching an escape plan would be the last thing on their minds.
The strangely liberal prison seems more like a resort for criminals than an actual penitentiary. The prisoners get to enjoy many privileges like getting job employment and making real money. Some work as barbers, a few run a drug ring and others manage cock fights which generates quite a profitable gambling revenue. There is even a “professional photographer” who earns his dough by photoshopping pictures of fellow inmates leaning against a Hummer with his trusty digital camera and laptop.
When the prisoners are not busy running either their internal or external businesses, they will be lounging in their air-conditioned cells watching TV with their girlfriends or wives who are free to come and go as they please, or joyfully splashing around with their children in one of the four swimming pools located within the prison complex. And as if things can't get anymore better, recently in 2009, a 54-unit women's annex was built on the prison grounds which naturally led to romantic liaisons between the inmates. On weekends, members of the public looking for an unusual way to spend their day can simply walk into the prison and party with the inmates in its Reggaetón clubs.
The prisoners owe their luxurious time spent incarcerated to Teófilo Rodrigues, also known as “El Conejo” (The Rabbit) because of his reported addiction to carrots. Rodrigues, a convicted drug trafficker, is the honorable leader of all the inmates in the San Antonio Prison. Someone who is so highly revered and respected by criminals in Venezuela and beyond does not need to give a shit about copyright issues. His trademark is the Playboy bunny logo and it appears on numerous prison walls as well as tattooed on some inmates' bodies as a pledge of allegiance and loyalty to him. Bunny Boy managed to establish himself as the true leader of the place by improving living conditions and somehow making San Antonio safer than other prisons.
Rodrigues runs his community of criminals by imposing a few conduct regulations. Anyone who disobeys them would be severely punished. A painting on a prison wall depicted Rodrigues as the conductor of a train accompanied by his group of lackeys carrying weapons pointed at a snitch hung from a noose. Aside from showing that snitches would be sentenced to death, the illustration also portrayed the presence of weapons that inmates are allowed to carry within the prison walls. Majority of the prisoners are afraid to reveal any information about the weapon stash they had with the exception of one British “tourist” Paul Makin, who was arrested for smuggling in cocaine in 2009.
“I was in the army for 10 years, I’ve played with guns all my life. I’ve seen some guns in here that I’ve never seen before. AK-47s, AR-15s, M-16s, Magnums, Colts, Uzis, Ingrams. You name them, it’s in here,” Makin expressed his amazement of the variety of guns contained inside the prison.
The saying “crime does not pay” is definitely not applicable here in this Criminal Haven. These inmates who are supposedly thrown into the slammer to be punished for their crimes are living it up! Even Makin agrees saying that “It’s the best prison in the world!”
Check out the video below of “the best prison in the world”.