Featuring Inspector Boss Van Aken and His Canaan Dog Nerek
It is a dark and stormy night. After weeks of foul weather marked by unrelenting rain, Riverby is inundated by a fierce thunderstorm and torrential rain, a true nor'easter. The town center is flooded. Riverside Manor, an apartment building for the elderly, is surrounded by flood waters that keep even emergency personnel from approaching.
A massive electrical outage blacks out the whole area, and the emergency generator soon fails. When the waters recede, and the national guard is able to bring in food and water, they learn that two residents have died, locked in a mortal struggle in one of the common areas known as the "gossip room". The investigators are stumped. A locked building full of frail, elderly residents; a puzzling murder scene; and no weapon to be found.
The regional Office of Special Investigations (OSI, an elite Federal crime unit that has been absorbed by Homeland Security) is called in by the puzzled local and state police. The reason for calling in the OSI unit is that the murders took place in a building supported in part by HUD "section 8" subsidy, and thus clearly a matter of national security.
Jerome Van Aken, the Chief Detective Inspector of OSI, is long past retirement age, but despite his quirky habits and unusual methods, has an unbroken string of solved cases. Van Aken is a direct descendant of the Netherlands painter born as Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken, and known today as Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516). His friends call Inspector Van Aken "Boss," (sounds like "baas" with a long "a" as in "Hahvahd Yahd", after the Dutch ancestral home, "Bosch").
Boss Van Aken, accompanied by his dog, Nerek, is soon picked up by a Coast Guard cutter from the dock close to his houseboat, a converted tug moored not far from the USS Constitution in the Boston Navy Yard. As they speed up the coast to Salem harbor, Van Aken reads briefing papers with background on the site of the murders, and gets additional information from the Captain, a native of Salem.
Riverside Manor, the site of the murders, is a massive granite structure with crenelated walls and towers, built as a poor house (the residents earned their keep by working on the farm), and later used as a prison and then an insane asylum before being converted to elderly housing.
Riverby, on the North Shore of Boston, is one of several small towns, once part of Salem, that date back to before the days of the Salem Witch Trials. The history of this area includes periods of farming, seafaring, and industry. Recently the towns have been transitioning to bedroom communities as the old industrial base has eroded and factories have been converted to offices, condominiums, and elderly housing.
Riverby was once the international center of the fish processing industry, but has lagged in developing a new economy. Commuters pass through the center which is crossed by a still-functioning rail line but there are few reasons for them to stop. The town does have a major mall and a growing health industry, and retains a number of strong working class neighborhoods. Despite all the changes, the center of town near the city hall has the feel of an old New England small town, with concerts on the green on summer Sunday evenings. And flood control efforts are underway.
Riverby center was originally at the head of a small but navigable tidal river. The area had been a magnet for settlement and manufacturing because of the abundant clean water, but urban development and pollution from industry have altered the landscape. Today, the streams run underground through tunnels, and there are only a few areas where the waters can be seen, flowing through fenced, below-grade canals. Nature takes her revenge when it rains, causing infamous floods during which people have been known to fish and canoe in the town center.
Arriving in Salem, Boss Van Aken transfers to the harbormaster's whaler, which is able to travel upstream along the flooded bed of the old river to within a hundred yards of the murder scene. Van Aken is briefed by the District Attorney and learns about the two murders. Because no one could enter or leave the building during the flood, it appears that the murderer must be one of the residents. Each of the victims has been stabbed to death by a left-handed assailant. But each of the dead persons is known to be right-handed. The wounds are square in cross-section, but no weapon has been found.
Van Aken looks forward to this challenge, a classic "murder in a locked room mystery" and sets out to interview everyone and search for clues and motives.
Nerek accompanies Van Aken in these investigations not only because he is the first dog to earn the title, Canine Sniff & Sensitivity Investigator (CSSI), but mainly because Nerek has demonstrated an uncanny ability to sense bad people: if they are trying to hide something, if they are hostile, if they pose a threat. Nerek is an imposing, 60-pound, white male Israeli Canaan dog with a red mask, curved tail, stand-up ears, and a symmetrical saddle patch of red on his back.
Van Aken has learned to pick up cues from Nerek--the low rumble of warning or the nearly-silent cough to focus attention can be better than a trained psychologist in an investigation. For most people, Nerek's presence is disarming--he is so handsome and friendly that witnesses feel comfortable at once. Through the years their special bond of cooperation has solved numerous cases. And Van Aken has never had to draw his revolver, Nerek's bark unnerves all opponents.
Van Aken has high hopes for his first interview with Helen, the part-time social worker at Riverside Manor, a tall, straw-blond woman of Swedish descent who is less than half the age of the youngest tenant. And Nerek, not always friendly with other dogs, immediately starts to play with her small brown-and-white shi-tzu dog.
Recently graduated from a school of social work, Helen is ostensibly tasked to work with residents on individual problems and to promote group activities. However, she is also obligated to oversee tenants on behalf of Management, and this has caused most tenants to mistrust her because they believe she carries tales to Management (how else could Management know everything?)
Management deals with all problems using a rather crude tool, what the tenants call a "nastygram." Whenever a complaint is made against a tenant, or any negative information comes to Management, a nastygram letter is sent to the tenant. Anonymous sources are cited to show the tenant has violated some rule affecting the building, or the other residents, often with a reminder that repeated infraction may lead to eviction. Tenants believe that Helen tells everything to Management, so they strive to keep all information away from her. Helen's conflicted role has severely limited her ability to help either tenants or Management.
She complains, "Boss, I hardly know what goes on in the building." She pleads with him to tell the secret of how he learns the information needed to solve a case.
"It's simple, Helen," he explains. "I just listen."
Van Aken finds himself drawn to the cat-like eyes of Helen and having fantasies of running away to a tropical island with her, but a nip on his leg from Nerek brings him back to reality. He realises that Helen has nothing to tell him.
Van Aken interviews many residents and finds himself being drawn into a mesh of alliances and antagonisms, and unable to sort out fact from fiction.
The common room is the scene of a "bingo" game each week. The wooden number balls clack as the cage is turned, the mistress of the game calls out the number, and 19 residents and two helpers seek out the number on their own cards. While some residents say they attend for the social contact, anyone who talks is "shushed" firmly, so the game continues mostly in silence. This scene turns out to have no information for the investigation.
However, it is in the "puzzle room" that Van Aken finds a group of more vocal residents. Here residents assemble around a table on which is laid out hundreds of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and they assemble it over a period of a day or two. Sometimes they work in silence, but Van Aken knows that patience is necessary to good detective work.
After a while the puzzlers ignore him and talk among themselves. It becomes clear that this is "command central" for the building, where all the news and gossip is exchanged, and where plans are hatched. Anne-Marie, a long-time resident of Riverby, seems to know everything. Ann-Marie knows who is sick, who has gone for a medical checkup, whose relatives don't ever visit, who is being persecuted by Management--it seems she knows what a person is thinking. Whenever she parts with a new bit of information or a new plan, she repeats a mantra: "Don't tell anyone. Remember, the walls have ears." Van Aken learns that Anne-Marie is actually very new in her role, having replaced Harold, a long-time resident who had recently moved out of Riverside Manor to live in a rooming house in Salem.
The puzzle room also seems like a group therapy session. The transit authority is short of money, and has announced plans to cut back on bus service in Riverby, and also to eliminate the special transport services for elderly and disabled people. Many people in Riverside Manor depend on these services. Gregory, the tallest of the puzzlers, has had to give up his car after a recent stroke. He said, "Being without a car is terrible. I used to go everywhere by car, now I can't visit my grandchildren, do my shopping, or go down to the sea. I'm trying to make do with the bus and the transport service, but now they want to take that away too."
Anne-Marie comments, "Well Gregory, we all suffer from the way society rejects anyone who is without power. We're old, we're weak, we're helpless and they feel they can do anything to us. Our only chance is to work together and protest. That's why we ought to do something through the Riverby Manor Association."
The philosopher of the group, Phillip, a retired professor of classics, adds his support. "We're all living here because we have no place else to go while we wait to die. This is our life raft as we cross the Styx river to the other side. We are in this together--we must help each other, and we have no right to throw someone over the side to the sharks."
This homily seems to end the conversation, and Van Aken decides he needs some fresh air. Taking stock, Van Aken concludes that everyone who works or lives in the building is more than a little paranoid, depressed, or both.
Van Aken decided to make a trip to Salem to interview Harold, the former resident. They meet at the "Seven Gables Bar" near the old pier where a tall sailing ship is moored. Sitting at a wooden table full of gouges and burn marks, and drinking a delicious local brew, Van Aken learned that Harold is a native of Riverby, knows everything about everyone and their secrets, and for several years had suffered in silent terror at Riverside Manor. He was so fearful of the custodian, Goliath, that when his stove would only light on one out of four burners, instead of calling Goliath to fix it, he used the single burner for all his cooking--for five years!
Harold also told about a woman, Electra, with an incurable, end-stage disease who was evicted by Management. It seems this lady had tried to organize the residents, had reached out to various official agencies to protest against Management policies, and had refused to be cowed.
"How did they get rid of her," Van Aken wanted to know.
Harold explains that "Goliath had been telling other residents that Electra had been stealing from other residents, and finally after Electra had pointed at Goliath in anger, he filed a police report that she was intimidating him. The fact that he was half her age and twice her size had no influence on the police or the housing court and she ended up living her last weeks as a street person."
Fact or fiction, this story had served as a warning to all residents. Harold explained that a small inheritance recently enabled him to move to his cramped rooms overlooking the ocean. "So finally I have escaped Riverside Manor!" [Ed note: It looks like "Harold" was the person that influenced the author of the Van Aken series to keep the stories secret and not publish them...]
As their conversation draws to a close, Harold reveals that he was a community social worker for many years, and taught at one of the prestigious schools of social work before his retirement.
Van Aken settles back into his seat, orders another round of beer, and asks, "Harold, can you help me understand Riverside Manor? Surely you must have some theories."
Harold says, "Boss, I do have some thoughts on it. I'm not sure how this will help you in the investigation, but perhaps the broader context may help you get a perspective on this strange place. Riverside Manor is a society like a 'total institution' such as a prison or old-fashioned mental asylum." Harold recalls the traits of the total institution from the sociology writings of Goffman, and finds a close match. The tenants settle their own affairs, join cliques for mutual support and protection, and mistrust all authority figures.
Harold continues, "As a result, only in the most extreme cases will one tenant complain to Management, or to Helen, about another. And then you need to consider that the residents are helpless to control their own lives in Riverside Manor. The reason for that is that many of them cannot afford to pay full market rent, and the difference between what they can pay and the market rate is made up by a HUD program called 'Section 8'--you know, a subsidy program of Housing and Urban Development--which belongs to the building, not the tenants. Because the system is build on financial incentives and property, and lacks measures for the social and emotional well-being of residents, tensions are bound to arise."
"The idea of providing decent, affordable, subsidized housing is of course a wonderful boon to residents. But financially, a resident is only the justification for a subsidy payment. The buildings under this program are usually owned by an investment-development corporation. Such a company receives investments from wealthy individuals, who in turn receive tax abatements. The development corporation may receive loans or mortgages from the state and the federal government."
Van Aken interrupts, "But Harold, that seems to make a lot of sense. This seems like a perfect way to meld the incentives of the free market, the power of the state, and the needs of elderly residents. What does that have to do with my case?"
Harold continued, "Boss, just bear with me, I am getting to the point. I can see this is more than you expected--but on my web site I have a research paper on social aspects of subsidized housing. Both tenants and management are caught in a trap, and end up fighting each other. You have two groups of people, the site managers and the tenants, that are fighting at cross purposes instead of working together. That kind of tension might easily lead to murder."
"I tried to work for cooperation, but in the end it was more than I could handle. The only other solution for residents would be to have the option of living in the community, but they have no place to go. Alas, government policies over the last few years have not adequately funded the 'housing choice voucher' program, and the waiting lists are so long that this an unrealistic option."
Van Aken says, "Harold, you have given me a lot to think about. I had no idea of the social and economic forces that focus on Riverside Manor. I do wonder how that fits in with the deaths I am investigating, and am very glad you shared this with me. Goodbye, and good luck in your new life here in Salem."
As the national guard truck takes him back to Riverside Manor, Van Aken calls Venus at home base. "Venus, I just spent an hour with Harold--he would not stop talking. But I think he may have some useful ideas. Please look up Harold's web site and prepare a summary of his views on the social life of subsidized residences, and any related background. I think we might find some ideas about motives, at least we might find an opening into this case."
Back at Riverside Manor, Van Aken joins a trio of men seated on benches under a tree outside. Van Aken is not much younger than these gentlemen and they soon settle into men's banter, enjoying the clear air and pleasant temperatures of a spring afternoon. The three residents all wear orange caps with "T" on the bill. It soon becomes clear this is not the logo of a sports team, but of their own "work" group,the "Troublemakers." The men, who call each other "Mr. Trouble," are talking about the recent deaths.
Hank says, "They keep taking people out of here. You come here upright and walking, you wait to die, then they take you out on a stretcher wrapped in plastic. But I'm happy, I have had a good life."
Fred says, "I do wonder what is killing all our people. Seems like they keep on falling and breaking bones, having strokes, heart attacks, emphysema, cancer and more; and then they get taken away and never come back."
Van Aken ventures to ask "Did anyone hear anything on the night of the murders?"
Peter breaks his silence to say, "We hear strange noises all the time, and especially during the night. I hear clapping and whistling in the hall, but when I look, no one is there. There are noises all night, but no one ever admits to moving furniture, slamming doors, hammering and building at two in the morning. I wonder if it is ghosts that haunt this building."
Hank interrupts to ask, "What ghosts are you talking about, Peter?"
Peter continues, "First it was the witches they hung over there on Gallows Hill, and the Riverby man accused of witchcraft that was pressed to death by piling stones on him. Then it was the murderers that were executed when this was a prison. And the poor, crazy souls that got stuck in here....I wonder if those two ladies got killed by one of them ghosts."
There is a long silence while everyone digests that thought.
Then, Hank and Peter get deep in negotiations over their work, which apparently is to keep the parking lot (still puddled after the storm) free of snow. Although it is spring, they are seriously discussing their responsibilities for clearing snow.
"Harry, be sure to get the snow blower tuned up today!" says Fred. Harry replies,
"Fred, I already did that yesterday. Don't forget it is your turn to clear the parking lot tonight!"
And Bill says, "Fred, I'll meet you at three this morning to help you."
At that, Fred stands up and towers over Bill. "What makes you think I need your help, you are just going to be trouble."
Bill gets up, puts up his fists, and the two start throwing punches at each other, grunting and shouting. Nerek gets up, cocks his head to the side and utters one sharp bark, and the men stop and sit down; and all three begin to laugh.
Van Aken realizes that his leg is being pulled and that whatever this trio knows, they aren't going to share it with him. He is up against a serious challenge in finding reliable witnesses.
Van Aken paces through the mud around the building to consider the possibilities--he is an admirer of Sherlock Holmes and Kurt Wallender and so believes that the answer must be somewhere in the facts already revealed before him. Van Aken makes a call to a colleague of his in the state crime lab. He says, "Jim, I understand that the walls in Riverside Manor have ears. Do you have anything on that?"
A breakthrough comes when a renewed search by the crime lab finds digital recordings on a computer in the office of Goliath, the custodian. Consistent with some of the paranoid musings of residents, they had been spied on all along. Management had secretly placed a recording system with a network of microphones in the meeting rooms, including the gossip room and the puzzle room. The crime lab has the recordings transcribed, revealing a great deal about the social life in Riverside Manor.
Van Aken finally hears from Jim in the crime lab. "Boss, I think we have the clues you need," says Jim. "The transcripts reveal that the dead women, Decima and Morta, were rivals for control of the recently revived Riverside Manor Association."
Decima was the queen of the "seniors," several ancients of over eight decades who had lived in Riverside Manor for many years. They considered that age brought wisdom and conferred privileges, along with the obligation to rule. They resisted every effort to introduce change.
Morta, a spry seventy-year-old, represented the younger generation, believing that their relative youth and greater energy made them the natural leaders. She and her supporters believed that change was important, and that nothing should stand in the way of their youth. They advocated greater autonomy for residents.
In her last speech, Morta had said "It isn't right. People think that we are incompetent and treat us like children just because we must accept social subsidies for our housing and because we are old." She began meetings of her followers by leading them in chanting "Yes we can!"
Like two rival queen bees, Decima and Morta were locked in a struggle for popularity. They each had given rival dinners to gain favor with the residents. Decima was determined to force Morta and others that she disliked to leave the building. Morta was fighting to get the Association to put more attention on providing entertainment and pleasures for the residents and to replace Management and the blond Helen, the part-time social worker.
Van Aken could not understand what would motivate someone to kill both of these antagonists, unless it were someone who totally opposed the Association. Most of the residents claim to be in favor of the Association, albeit divided in their allegiances to Decima and Morta.
However, in the process of interviewing every resident, Van Aken gets hints of several people who are opposed to the idea of a tenant's association. Paradoxically they have formed a tight clique and they sit around and complain about the activists for hours on end. They do not attend any of the Association meetings and are threatened by the very existence of the Association.
Mortimer, a heavy-set gentleman who had worked in construction, tells Van Aken that "I am strongly opposed to this Association. Why can't they just leave things as they were? They've got nothing to do but to stir up trouble for those good people that manage the building."
While Mortimer and his friends might have been motivated to kill, none of them had the capacity. As a group they remind Van Aken of the phrase, "the lame, the halt, and the blind," because they are all significantly handicapped: confined to a wheelchair, barely able to get around because of lung disease, weakened by chemotherapy, and frail. None of them has the strength to kill, and not only that, they all are right-handed.
The Association had set as the primary goal, to get rid of the present management, whose director, Zeus, had sworn to punish the Association for challenging his rule of several years. Zeus is a graduate of a prestigious business school who applies 19th century industrial management methods to rental housing, hoping to make a reputation in the fast-growing elderly housing field. Zeus is also the sworn enemy of Nora, the brash young community organizer who had revived the Association as part of her efforts to unseat management in her ambitious drive to gain national prominence.
Unfortunately for Van Aken, the electrical failure on the night of the storm prevented any recording at the time of the murder. Nevertheless, the social dynamics suggest that Nora and Zeus are the logical suspects. Van Aken recalls that Nerek gave a quiet rumble during the interview with Nora, and his hackles rose in the meeting with Zeus when he reached out his left hand, spreading fingers over Nerek's head in a clumsy attempt to pet him. But Van Aken can find no evidence against either of them. And, because of the flooding, which made it impossible to reach the building, they are not considered as suspects.
His young companion and researcher, Venus, searches the internet and learns from a news story and photo published by China Press that Hermes, a son of one of the residents, Artemis, had paddled his canoe to the building to see his mother when it had been isolated in a previous famous flood. Venus sends the information to 'Boss' by email to his cell phone. Van Aken considers that this might be the key to the "locked room" mystery. But an interview at the home of Hermes reveals that on the night of the flood Hermes was out in the canoe with his wife and five year old daughter, capturing turtles for the child's science experiments.
Then Nerek digs in the garden and discovers the murder weapons, two rusty railroad spikes covered in blood. Since the garden is tended by Plato, Van Aken questions him. But Plato has an alibi: Artemis had been visiting him during the time of the murders, so they provided alibis for each other.
After a few more false trails, Van Aken takes Nerek for a long walk on the beach. He receives a call from Venus who reports, "Boss, I've summarized Harold's ideas, this might be the key to the case."
Van Aken replies, "Well Venus, good work, but don't keep me in suspense."
Venus goes on to explain Harold's theories. "The landlord, in this case a development company, is obligated to provide housing that meets standards that are enforced by inspectors from HUD and the state. The development company hires a management company to oversee the day-to-day affairs: collecting rents, making sure tenants are qualified for the subsidy, and general maintenance like keeping the building heated in winter, fixing the plumbing, and keeping the public areas and yard neat and clean. But none of the investors or agencies is required to see to the good welfare of the residents. They strongly object to tenants trying to organize, and in general have no incentive to grant tenants autonomy. As a result, the staff of the management company is overworked dealing with regulations and paperwork, and lacks a budget to provide an independent social worker or other advocate for tenants. His theory is that people forced to live and work in this kind of total institution will experience stress and may eventually snap under the tension."
"Boss," Venus continues, "if Harold's analysis is correct, it could be the lead we need. But if it proves true, then you are likely to be called back because he describes a real pressure cooker that is bound to continue putting staff and residents under stress, and that may lead people to extreme actions."
As he walks along the beach, trying to grasp the core of all the information he has gathered, he watches the action of the waves, and notices how the water crashes into the rocks but always flows back into the ocean.
"Of course," he realizes, "what is the most natural and simple explanation?"
With that in mind, he gets search warrants for the homes and offices of all the personnel of the management company. A canoe is found lashed to the top of the all-terrain SUV of one of the custodians, Goliath.
At first Goliath claims he was planning to use the canoe to help out some friends who were flooded. But Van Aken tells him that Nerek has been trained and validated as a lie-detector dog, and warns him of the penalties for obstructing an investigation. When he continues to protest his innocence, a few growls and Nerek's bared fangs change his mind.
After that, questioning quickly reveals that Zeus had ordered him to bring the canoe to the center of town in the middle of the night, during the thunderstorm. He had picked Zeus up again, along with Nora, the community organizer, before dawn. Goliath claims they told him they had gone to check up on the well-being of the residents. But when the murders came to light, Goliath did not dare come forward because he was afraid of being accused as an accomplice.
Confronted with the evidence, Zeus confesses that he and Nora had collaborated in the murders despite their personal antagonism. Nora met him, they paddled the canoe to the building, and because the flood waters were so high, Nora and Zeus were able to climb into the building through the unlocked window of the laundry room, carry out the murders, and dispose of the weapons by throwing them out of the canoe into the garden, hoping to direct suspicion onto Plato.
That night, back on their houseboat, and as the canon on board the Constitution booms the setting of the sun and the lowering of the colors, Van Aken pours another glass of wine for his beautiful young female companion, Venus, and says to Nerek and Venus, "Well, team, that's the end of another impossible mystery. I couldn't have done it without you both."
"The explanation is simple," said Van Aken, without being asked. "The key was the Riverside Manor Association. The Association was close to succeeding in getting Zeus fired for poor management, so Zeus had a motive to kill. The in-fighting in the Association had enabled Nora to control events by playing one faction off against the other. Nora feared she would lose control if the two factions reached a truce. If that happened, it would endanger her hopes for national recognition as a fierce community organizer---the modern path to the White House. So she also had a strong motive to kill."
Turning to Venus, and reaching for her hand, he added, "And now let's enjoy watching this beautiful sunset and hope for fair weather tomorrow."
But Venus has the last word. "Boss, mark my words, you'll be called back to Riverside Manor. Harold's research shows that the murders were the result of forces that are bound to continue."
Copyright 2009 Anonymous & Jerry Halberstadt All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
EDITOR'S NOTE : A MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN THE TRASH
The story presented here came to me in a curious way, and I have decided to make it public lest it be lost. A friend of mine, lacking in funds but not in initiative, has been able to furnish his apartment through trash picking and dumpster diving. Unsavory as the practice may seem, he actually is doing quite well--his apartment is nicely furnished. He is now looking for places to store his finds, and insists he does this collecting because he sees things that are just too good to send to a landfill. One night as he made his rounds in a dumpster for an elderly apartment complex, he came across a box of papers. In a handsome leather binder, embossed with gold leaf and fancy tooling, he found what appeared to be several chapters of a novel, or perhaps several short stories, written in a classic cursive script, along the lines of literary detective stories. There was no title page or cover page to the writings, nor could he find any clue to the origin--no bills or other materials with a name and address. It seemed to be all that was left of a life.
There are only a few forms for detective fiction, like the classic murder in a locked room. Only a few writers are capable of infusing what is a stock tale with life, vitality, and the aura of a place, its people, and its culture. Fewer writers attempt to narrate the events of old age. Our unknown author peoples his fictive setting with strange but plausible elderly individuals. The stories from that orphan collection highlight some of the themes and stresses experienced by people living in elderly apartment residences. For that reason, if not for any intrinsic literary quality, I have decided to publish this work by an unknown soul; and without claiming it as my own work, to copyright it to protect the interests of the writer or his heirs.---JH
REFERENCE NOTES FROM HAROLD'S RESEARCH PAPER:
A total institution, also referred to as a voracious institution, as defined by Erving Goffman (sociologist, 1922-1982), is an institution where all parts of life of individuals under the institution are subordinated to and dependent upon the authorities of the organization. Total institutions are social microcosms dictated by hegemony and clear hierarchy. ... Some of the...total institutions which operate within a civil society are boarding schools, small private colleges, orphanages and homes for troubled children. Goffman describes "institutionalization" as a response by patients to the bureaucratic structures and mortification processes of total institutions.---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia under the Creative Commons license http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_institution The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a type of Federal assistance provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dedicated to sponsoring subsidized housing for low-income families and individuals. It is more commonly known as Section 8, in reference to the portion of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 under which the original subsidy program was authorized. The United States Code (the compilation of current U.S. federal laws) covers this program in Title 42, Chapter 8, Section 1437f. This article review legislative history and recent status of these housing programs. ---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia under the Creative Commons license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_8_%28housing%29 Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/programs/hcv/about/fact_sheet.cfm#1 ---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia under the Creative Commons license. Chronic stress is the response of the brain to unpleasant events for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives it has no control. It involves an endocrine system response in which occurs a release of corticosteroids. This if continuous for a long time can cause damage to an individual's physical and mental health. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_stress ---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia under the Creative Commons license. It was a cruel sentence, and the crime was being too old. As a worn-out cog in the social machine, one was dumped on the garbage heap. --Martin Beck in The Locked Room: The Story of a Crime by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo