Scientology 101: What is the Rehabilitation Project Force

7 12 2008

Cross posted at

Reading our recent review of The Complex by John Duignan, you may have come across the term Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), which Duignan describes as “a dark prison complex”. You may have been skeptical about the nature of the RPF. I was, too, when I first heard about it. But sometimes, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Gold Base is Scientology's main headquarters, and it also has a huge RPF complex

Gold Base is Scientology's main headquarters, and it also has a huge RPF complex

First of all: yes, the RPF is real. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard created it in 1974 for “delinquent” members of Scientology’s elite Sea Organization so that they could have a chance to “redeem” themselves and not get kicked out of the Sea Organization. Sea Org members are taught that they are the only people that can save this planet from destruction so to be in the bad graces of the Sea Org hierarchy is a serious matter. The RPF is said to be voluntary, but many ex-Sea Org members were dragged into the RPF involuntarily. Hana Eltringham Whitfield, who was once in L. Ron Hubbard’s inner circle, was reportedly taken to the RPF in Clearwater, Florida “escorted [by] heavy men, both well over 6′ tall”.

Per her statement, RPF inmates have to perform hard labor from sunrise to sunset, with little rest in between. They are served leftovers from what regular Sea Org members eat, and they have to run everywhere. Those who aren’t sufficiently ”rehabilitated” are sent to “the RPF’s RPF”. Hana Whitfield states:

One of my buddies was assigned to the RPF’s RPF for two months for refusing to divulge confidential information for which she had been bonded in the Guardian’s Office. She was kept in that space excommunicado for the entire time, with limited bathing and toilet privileges, all the time being threatened and verbally harassed by RPF superiors. She finally emerged a broken, silent, sullen person who soon after managed to escape from the RPF and the Fort Harrison Hotel. Her name was Lynn Froyland. I have never seen her since she left.

So what are the heinous “crimes” that a Sea Org member can be interned for? Not bringing in enough revenue for their franchise, bringing bad publicity to the Church, questioning their superiors’ orders, and “having negative thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard” (or about the current leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige).

Along with days of back-breaking labour, RPF inmates have to go through auditing, which normally is used as therapy. But when auditing is performed on RPF inmates, it mirrors the brainwashing techniques used on American prisoners of war during the Korean War. Dr. Stephen Kent, an expert on new-age religions and cults writes “People confessed to all manner of crimes, including ones allegedly from past lives (Nefertiti, 1997: 12). In essence, Scientology’s supposedly “religious” tool – the e-meter [a machine with two steel cans which pick up electrical signals-Ed.] – became the functional equivalent of a secular lie detector”.

High-ranking Scientology leaders assume inmates have committed crimes or are working for their enemies (guilty until proven innocent). Former Scientologist Monica Pignotti details how an auditing session would go:

They had prepared lists that they called security checks where they would ask you all kinds of questions on every possible thing a person could have done wrong–any possible thing you could think of in your life or… against the organization. ‘Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard? About Mary Sue Hubbard? About Scientology?…. Have you ever committed murder?’ Just a whole list where anything [might] read on the e-meter. And the auditor would say, ‘What are you thinking of right now?’ and you would have to answer the question until… the meter didn’t read anymore…

When inmates are deemed “rehabilitated”, they have to write “success stories”. The normal formula of an RPF success story is to acknowledge their past crimes, tell of how their RPF experience improved them, and to glorify L. Ron Hubbard and his perfect spiritual “technology”. See an example of such a success story here.

The average RPF sentence can be served quickly depending on satisfactory completion, but, in many cases, inmates stayed on for longer than a year. Former Scientologist Chuck Beatty served the longest term on the RPF: 7 years. Sent to the RPF in 1995 for wanting to blow the whistle on the “Church’s” upper management, he initially wanted to spend just six months. But after expressing a desire to leave, or “route out” of the Sea Org, he was talked into staying on the RPF so that he could redeem himself among his Sea Org colleagues. Finally in 2002, he regained his freedom and left the RPF – and the “Church”. Asked why it took 7 years for him to leave the RPF, he writes in an email:

It’s a lot of rubber bands that one has attached very tightly to oneself, when one gets into the Sea Org and stays in for a couple decades. Walking out is not easy. It’s not made to be easy just to walk out, not unless they don’t want you. If they want you, they want you to stay.