Inmates at Tocorón prison, which was controlled by the powerful Tren de Aragua gang, in south America, even had their families living with them on-site, according to local media.
Prisoners could roam freely and enjoy the range of facilities, which were apparently installed by the gang.
They also included gambling rooms, a baseball field, and a restaurant.
The Venezuelan government released a statement congratulating law enforcement officers – the Bolivarian National Guard – for regaining ‘total control’ of the prison, which lies in the northern state of Aragua.
It said the operation had ‘dismantled a center of conspiracy and crime’.
President Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, praised ‘today’s great success in the fight against criminal organisations’.
The government said 6,000 inmates at Tocorón are being transferred to other prisons.
Dozens of relatives who had been living inside the prison with the inmates gathered outside for updates.
Gladys Hernandez was waiting for her husband and said: ‘I am waiting to hear where they are taking him… I was living in there, but they kicked us out.
Security officers were spotted carrying motorcycles, televisions, air conditioners, and microwaves out of the jail.
‘That’s ours!’ shouted one of the women waiting.
It’s thought some inmates escaped during the takeover, as a later government statement announced a ‘second phase’ of the operation for the ‘search and capture’ of ‘fugitive criminals’.
Tren de Aragua, Venezuela’s most powerful homegrown gang, has influence across the country and neighbouring nations.
It has some 5,000 members, according to an investigation by Venezuelan journalist Ronna Risquez.
The gang was established a decade ago and has been responsible for kidnappings, robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, and extortion.
Tren de Aragua is also connected to illegal gold mining and, according to think tank InSight Crime, a major player in migrant smuggling.
Ms Risquez said the gang ‘took advantage’ of Venezuela’s economic and political instability over the past decade to expand operations and is now working in at least eight other Latin American countries.
She said Tocorón prison had been entirely in the hands of the gang.
‘Inside, the men I have seen with guns are prisoners belonging to the organization. They guard the prison but not for the state,’ she added.
She compared the jail to a ‘hotel’ for the gang members.
Tren de Aragua’s leader is Hector Guerrero Flores, who was serving a 17-year sentence for murder and drug trafficking, said Carlos Nieto, coordinator of A Window for Freedom, a prison rights NGO.
However, before the government’s takeover operation he appeared to come and go from Tocorón at will, said Ms Risquez.
Venezuelan prisons are more than 50 percent overcrowded, with very poor conditions, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons.
Mr Nieto said the raid was a recognition of ‘the prison chaos we are experiencing and how negligent’ the government had been in solving it.
In Ecuador, meanwhile, where gangs also have substantial power in jails, a drug lord has released a music video from prison.
The professional-quality video pays homage to José Adolfo ‘Fito’ Macías Villamar and includes a number of shots of the convicted murderer inside the Guayaquil prison where he’s incarcerated.
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