Formed in 1973, whilst Hubbard
was on the mend, the "Rehabilitation Project Force]" or ("RPF
") was Hubbard's latest innovation in Ethics Technology
This became Scientology's equivalent to imprisonment, with more than a tinge of the Chinese Ideological Re-education Center (laogai
). In theory the RPF deals with Sea Org
members who consistently fail to make good. They are put on physical labour, and spend several hours each day confessing their overts
(transgressions), and revealing their Evil Purposes.
Life in the Sea Org was already fairly gruelling, but the Rehabilitation Project Force went several steps further. Gerry Armstrong, who spent over two years on the RPF, has given this description:
It was essentially a prison to which crew who were considered nonproducers, security risks, or just wanted to leave the Sea Org, were assigned. Hubbard's RPF policies established the conditions.
RPF members were segregated and not allowed to communicate to anyone else. They had their own spaces and were not allowed in normal crew areas of the ship. They ate after normal crew had eaten, and only whatever was left over from the crew meal. Their berthing was the worst on board, in a roach-infested, filthy and unventilated cargo hold. They wore black boilersuits, even in the hottest weather. They were required to run everywhere. Discipline was harsh and bizarre, with running laps of the ship assigned for the slightest infraction like failing to address a senior with "Sir." Work was hard and the schedule rigid with seven hours sleep time from lights out to lights on, short meal breaks, no liberties and no free time...
When one young woman ordered into the RPF took the assignment too lightly, Hubbard created the RPF's RPF and assigned her to it, an even more degrading experience, cut off even from the RPF, kept under guard, forced to clean the ship's bilges, and allowed even less sleep.
Others verify Armstrong's account. The RPF rapidly swelled to include anyone who had incurred Hubbard's disfavor. Soon about 150 people, almost a third of the Apollo's complement, were being "rehabilitated
". This careful imitation of techniques long-used by the military to obtain unquestioning obedience and immediate compliance to orders, or more simply to break men's spirits, was all part of a ritual of humiliation for the Sea Org