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The RPF: What are the Facts?

October 4, 2009

We got into a bit of a discussion last week on the RPF, and someone calling themselves “Surprised” posted a comment saying, “any RPF people I ever ran into, in LA and elsewhere, were always very carefree, I saw them smiling, they looked healthy and not stressed at all, and often sang, or told jokes or stories when working.”

This got me thinking. Is this the way most Scientology public view the RPF? As a bunch of carefree, singing people, happily “rehabilitating” themselves?

Well, certainly, the Church would like that to be the perception. According to their website, the RPF is “a second chance” for “Sea Org staff members who would otherwise be subject to dismissal for serious and/or continuous ecclesiastical violations”– an opportunity to experience “complete rehabilitation” for “personnel burn out.” Sea Org members who have gone through the program, we are told, “attest to its enormous personal benefit, and express their appreciation for being able to avail themselves of redemption as opposed to dismissal.”

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of these “attestations” by RPF graduates. For one thing, they have to attest to their gains from the RPF as a condition for graduating from the program.  Any reports that are less than glowing result in – guess what? – more time on the program. So these reports are, of course, universally laudatory. Similarly, if anyone currently on staff were to speak critically of the program in any way – they’d be right back on the program. So we’re not going to see anything other than glowing praise from Church sources.

And certainly, any RPF Member who happens to encounter public would take care to present a smiling, happy face, such as “Surprised” encountered. Anything less? More time on the program.

Religious researchers, like Gordon Melton, hired by the Church to do “studies” of the RPF, only read materials provided to them by the Church and only talked to RPF Members hand-picked by the Church. They never inspected the actual conditions of the RPF. And they never spoke to people who had done the program and who had subsequently left the Church.

These testimonies of former members, of which there are many on the web, paint a different picture. Amy Scobee described her RPF experience in her interview with the St. Petersburg Times, and other recent accounts include those from “Thoughtful” and “T. Paine.”

To be fair, there are former Sea Org Members, particularly those who did the program in earlier times, who still recall their RPF experience in somewhat positive terms. They remember enjoying the hard work, the co-auditing, and the esprit. But most remember it as an oppressive, degrading, and abusive experience.

These days, assignments to the RPF can be sudden and capricious. At one point, a Committee of Evidence was required for an RPF assignment. These days, it is more commonly done by executive fiat. David Miscavige has personally assigned many to the RPF by a verbal order. In fact, as reported by T. Paine and others, many people on the RPF have no idea why they are there.

What can we know about actual RPF conditions? Well, some of what we can know is listed in the Sea Org Flag Order establishing the RPF, FO 3434RB, “Rehabilitation Project Force,” a copy of which is available on the internet.

1.  They have no Liberties. This is confirmed by those who have done the program. They work seven days a week, 365 days a year.

2.  They are restricted to the building where the RPF is located. They must stay in the building, usually out of public sight. They are only allowed outside the building on authorized work cycles. Any travel between buildings is accompanied by a Security Guard.

3.  They receive quarter pay to begin with, which may be upped to half pay depending on their progress. As Sea Org Members currently receive less than $50 a week, this means RPF members would receive $12.50 to $25 a week. Assuming they work 8 hours a day, seven days a week (more on that later), this means they are paid 22 cents to 44 cents an hour.

4.  They are supposed to work for eight hours, study for five hours, get at least seven hours sleep, and have half an hour for each meal, as well as a half hour at the end of the night for “personal time.” They also have group meetings (musters) three or four times a day. Former members say that this schedule was often violated, with RPF members working late into the night, or even all night, to meet deadlines.

5. They are berthed only in a space which is isolated from the rest of the staff and is only for RPF. Former RPFers describe the berthing space as packed dormitories housing 30 or 40 people in bunk beds stacked three-high. In one instance, 40 men in one dormitory had to share a single sink and toilet. RPF dormitories have been described as cluttered, smelly, and degrading, as you might expect in a room where 40 people are housed together.

6.  They may not speak to or approach staff or public or outside public (people in the community) unless spoken to. They address all other staff and even public as “Sir,” whether male or female. They must wear a distictive black and grey uniform at all times.

7.  The Flag Order states that married RPFers are allowed one night a week with their spouse if they are upstat and as scheduled by the RPF MAA (Master-at-Arms). Former RPFers report that this is no longer allowed, and in fact spouses are often separated geographically. Currently, spouses are encouraged to divorce their partner if they are RPFed.

8.  They must suffer additional time in RPF if sentenced to it for violations of regulations, failure to produce, excessive natter, refusal to come clean or any other offense. This means that their RPF time can be lengthened if they step out of line in any way.

9.  They may not have with them in the RPF any radios, TVs, music, musical instruments, games or any such entertainment or luxury. They cannot have a cell phone. They can only use a phone to their family with a Security Guard listening in. They cannot own a computer or have any access to the internet. They cannot read newspapers or magazines. Letters to them are intercepted and read.  Their letters out are censored.

How long are people on the RPF? As long as it takes them to complete the RPF program, which consists of work, study, and co-auditing each other on Security Checks. When the program was originally instituted, it took a few months. Currently, people are on the RPF for many years – reportedly four to ten years.

Why has the program lengthened? Originally, all auditing was done on a “read it – drill it – do it” basis (RDD). Currently, RPFers are required to conform to “Golden Age of Tech” standards, doing a formal metering course, a Pro TR Course, and extensive training. Their metering and TRs now require an RTC pass. They are given exhaustive auditing programs. And, as reported by Thoughtful, even when your auditing is complete, you have to prepare a lengthy CSW (Completed Staff Work), meticulously tabbing and annotating the pc folders to prove that every point needing handling was handled. Then one waits months (in some cases years) while the CSW is reviewed, rejected, redone, and finally approved by RTC.

Meanwhile, one continues working, at 22 to 44 cents an hour.

According to US prison sentencing statistics (2004), the mean sentence lengths are 3 years for violent crimes, and 2.58 years for drug crimes. In other words, RPF members are, on average, spending more years in detainment than violent criminals or drug pushers.

One might compare the RPF to a minimum security prison, which this Wikipedia article describes in this way: “Minimum security prisoners live in less-secure dormitories, which are regularly patrolled by correctional officers. As in medium security facilities, they have communal showers, toilets, and sinks. A minimum-security facility generally has a single fence that is watched, but not patrolled, by armed guards.

The difference between the RPF and a prison? The prisoners have it better! Let’s look at some of the United Nations prison-related standards and norms.

1.  The UN standards dictate that “all accommodation facilities shall meet the requirements regarding health, heating, ventilation, floor space, sanitary facilities and lighting.” 40 men in one room with a single toilet and sink hardly passed this requirement.

2.  The UN standards require that “recreational and cultural activities like sports, music and other hobbies shall be available to all prisoners.” In the RPF, there are no hobbies, sports, recreation, music or anything similar.

3.  The UN standards state that Prisoners under sentence shall be required to work, but this work must not cause distress. The daily and weekly working hours shall be set according to local rules, leave one rest day a week and sufficient time for education and other activities. Work is to be remunerated equitably and prisoners shall have the right to spend part of their earnings on approved articles and to send money home.” RPF work schedules, while they leave time for auditing and training, do not allow for any other activity. RPF Members do not get one day off a week. And they are not paid equitably.

In fact, one could argue that RPF labor (used to do org renovations and make org furniture) might even fit the definition of a sweatshop, as given here: “[any] employer that violates more than one federal or state labour law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labour, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, or industry registration.”

In summary, we have, in the RPF, a system where Sea Organization members can be arbitrarily assigned to a prison-like system, often not even knowing why they are there, and kept there for an indeterminate amount of time, often many years, in degraded conditions that would never pass even the standards for a prison.

Is the RPF a benign system for the rehabilitation of errant staff, as it was intended? Or has it become something else, something more political, something more similar to, say, Vietnamese reeducation camps or the Chinese system of “Reeducation Through Labor” ?

  1. RPF Escapee permalink
    October 5, 2009 12:12 am

    I escaped from the RPF. Before I left, I managed to take photos of every single page of the RPF issues and when I was out I had them posted on wikileaks. Once on wikileaks, I wrote an article detailing the dreaded RPF “Final Assessment.” My intention was to expose this outrageoous program for what it really is. The RPF is nothing less than a de-humanizing mind-controlling gulag style re-education program to re-indoctrinate inmates into being slaves of David Miscavige. The program probably didn’t start out that way in the early ’70s, but that is the way it is now. I hope to God there is some way to free the poor souls that are still enslaved on this horrible, disgusting “program.” I still lose sleep worrying about them. I risked a lot by getting these issues put on the internet. I did my part. Can someone PLEASE help to get this sick, revolting program CANCELLED and free these poor people from 21st century SLAVERY?

    • rebel008 permalink*
      October 5, 2009 5:16 am

      Thank you for your courage.

  2. Jim Logan permalink
    October 5, 2009 2:44 am

    I did the RPF. I was wrongly assigned to it mind you, but rather than get a Committee of Evidence which at that time was an option afforded me in a written Ethics Order assigning me to the program, I chose to do the program as I knew the Comm Ev in the circumstance would be pro forma and I’d waste my time getting one.

    The program I did is not what is described here. The one here is unrecognizable to me as anything remotely connected to the actual original intention of the RPF and this one herein described is a suppressive travesty.

    This ‘thing’ is a prison and slave labor camp for David Miscavige. I’m speechless with disdain that this has come to pass.

  3. October 5, 2009 4:52 am

    Truth be told, the points 1-9 mentioned in the FO are not all that different from the normal circumstances of all Int base staff when I was last there several years ago. No lie.

    • October 5, 2009 9:34 am

      No dispute here Joe. I was never at Int Base but I’ve met several who were there and can attest that the name should be changed to Stalag 17.

  4. Hubbardianen permalink
    October 5, 2009 6:46 pm

    This IS diametrically opposed to what Scientology should be. No wonder there’s no expansion.

  5. surprised permalink
    October 6, 2009 7:14 pm

    Thanks Rebel008, I think this article along with thoughtful’s really clears things up. I think a lot of us seeing the RPF from a short distance have a more factual picture of it now. I think that Jim is right, that may be the reason for some people who graduated the program to say how great it was, for them it probably was, and it probably was an RPF like Jim describes. I feel for the plight of RPFers, Int staff and others who feel the weight of injustices visited on them. But to be honest, my primary concern is for the prisoners of the Hole at Int. I just heard the accounts, is there a way to get them freed up, through legal action? I don’t understand how come the police does not investigate with a surprise visit. Are they PRed or are they afraid DM will expose some dirt he has on them? May be we should write to amnesty international.

    Do you remember that girl Karin or Karen Hollander or Hollader or something liek that? Is she in the hole? She was friends with LA’s police people, it seemed so in events anyway. May be they’d be willing to inquire of her whereabouts, may be they can search the place and look at the conditions personally. Are this reports not grounds for a real investigation? Is law enforcement in on this? Do they have their hands tied? Do they not care?

    May be we ought petition someone to look into this, not ask the Church but look. Is this not a possibility? if not why not? I’m sorry, I’m trying to understand this things.

    • Jim Logan permalink
      October 6, 2009 8:48 pm

      The trouble with a ‘raid’ by law enforcement is they have to get warrants. (I don’t know that they aren’t in the process of that). If they did, and I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know exactly what is involved in getting a warrant, but let’s say they did, what the ‘declarations’ put out by Tommy Davis would indicate is that those in the ‘Hole’ would deny any wrong doing.

      There are also First Amendment case law considerations involved. According to long standing precedent and as far back as 1872 or so, in Watson v. Jones, a person who joins a group agrees to abide by the laws and procedures of that group. The court is loath to intervene. What the court says today is that the individual must exhaust all within group measures to right a wrong and only then will the court take it up and only in specific circumstances of actual criminal acts or violations of specific rights.

      If one had a minor child in the ‘Hole’ and filed a complaint then of course, in would go the coppers. That’s not the case. Here, these are ‘consenting adults’.

      Again, I’m not a lawyer so there may be others who know more about this. I don’t think the ‘raid’ angle is viable. What is gaining ground is the so-called LRH sanctioned, Protest PR.

      Enough Scientologists on lines getting accurately informed of what DM is really all about, and enough of any and all Scientologists, and plain old citizens getting accurately informed and the swell of rational beings protesting these abuses and we’ll see faster change. We’re already getting change, faster would be better.

      That’s my two cents.

    • October 6, 2009 9:27 pm

      Besides that, you are asking a corrupt organization i.e. the FBI to “investigate” another corrupt organization i.e. the “Church of Scientology”. To me this is like asking the wolves to investigate the foxes about reports regarding incursions into the hen house. Yeah that’s gonna work!

      I find it interesting that the Government only went after the Church when it was making its best efforts to apply the technology and now that they have become some kind of pseudo-mind control operation and money laundering scam under a virtual dictatorship, they couldn’t care less or worse may even be covertly supporting it!

      In my opinion don’t waste your time calling on the guardians of law and order because they ain’t a comin’.

      As far as I’m concerned we’re pretty much on our own and I don’t expect big government will be in there pitching for our rights any time soon. So I suggest you just realize that there is really no Church of Scientology. It has been effectively destroyed and that there are only Scientologists actual Scientologists those of us out here on the perimeter who are out here in search of a Church.

  6. Ex-RPFer permalink
    October 14, 2009 7:20 pm

    RE: RPF Escapee,

    I looked on Wikileaks for your photos and article and nothing came up. Perhaps they have been censored. Good for you on getting out. I finally got kicked out in a rather dramatic fashion years ago after trying to route out standardly more than once. But that is another story for another time. I am interested in seeing your article though if you can post a link that would be great.

    • Leaker permalink
      October 18, 2009 1:27 am

      Re-submitted just now to wikileaks as doc name rpf-dox.pdf. Should eventually appear under this category:

      Notes will state:

      Photographed issues of the Church of Scientology’s infamous RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force) issues.

      These have never been available outside C of S.

      These issues show the formal policies surrounding this work camp / thought-indoctrination gulag which C of S promotes as “rehabilitation”.

      1. Has this file been released before anywhere on or off line?

      2. Why is this file important?
      These issues show the formal policies surrounding this work camp / thought-indoctrination gulag which C of S promotes as “rehabilitation”.

      3. What is the likely audience?
      Anyone investigating Church of Scientology human rights abuses.

      4. What are some approaches to verification (who can journalists call for comment etc)?
      Tommy Davis of C of S.

      5. Why was it leaked?
      Because people have been enquiring about these policies.

      6. Is there some event that means the document needs to published ugently?
      Yes. Several investigations currently ongoing.

  7. Passerby permalink
    October 18, 2009 12:34 am

    Ex-RPF, I’m not the person you asked the question to, but the following are the leaks that he’s referring to:

    • Ex-RPFer permalink
      October 20, 2009 1:16 am

      Thanks I checked out both links. Looking at those issues again brought back a lot of memories. Good and bad. The best thing about getting assigned to the RPF was the friends that I made. Life long friends who I still have today. So I can’t bitch about everything. The enslavement part, not so much though.

      Some day I would like to post my whole story about the RPF. I thought about writing a screenplay about it but setting it in a different setting. I still think it could work. We will see.

  8. Passerby permalink
    October 18, 2009 12:38 am

    N.B. The 1st link is the one that they apparently leaked.


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