A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Corrections says Mark Becker won’t be treated differently from any inmate who enters the state’s prison system. The 24-year-old Becker faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas.
Corrections Department spokesman Fred Scaletta says Becker will go through processing at the facility in Oakdale, just like every other new inmate. “Obviously, we may take some additional precautions in this particular case since we’re aware of some issues and we’ll address those immediately upon entrance,” Scaletta said. “But it’s really the same process for everybody.”
Becker pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in Thomas’ death and his mental health was the focus of the trial. Scaletta says corrections staff will review Becker’s medical records and he’ll undergo a psychological evaluation. Becker could remain at Oakdale if it’s determined he needs special treatment or attention.
“But, once there’s a stabilization and there’s an opportunity when we believe he can function in a general population, then we’ll look at a different setting,” Scaletta said. “It could possibly be Oakdale, but it would more likely be a higher security facility in Fort Madison or Anamosa.”
Doctors hired by both the prosecution and defense diagnosed Becker with schizophrenia. Inmates with that condition are not always separated from the general population in Iowa’s prison system. “We have about 180 people in the prison system who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some are worse than others, some can function just fine in a general population setting and some cannot,” Scaletta said.
The state penitentiary in Fort Madison has a clinical care unit with 200 beds for inmates with special needs. The Oakdale facility has 100 beds for prisoners with severe mental health issues. Becker is scheduled to be sentenced to prison on April 14.