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Inmate leery of personal interaction


During his time spent in solitary at the administrative segregation unit at the North Dakota State Penitentiary, Jacob Scarberry, 28, became interested in yoga, paced breathing and art. While alone staring at walls, Scarberry said he repeatedly went over the same thoughts. "I'm different a little bit," Scarberry said. "I can't relate to people the same." 

Jacob Scarberry has been in the state penitentiary before, and he has a history of assaulting inmates and staff.

That pattern has landed him in solitary confinement more than once.

During a months-long stint, he said he stared at the walls and replayed the same thoughts and memories in his head over and over again.

Asked how it affected him, he said, "look at me."

"I'm choppy," the muscular and slightly jittery 28-year-old said. "It's difficult for me to have conversations that flow." 

"I can't relate to people the same," he said. 

He said he turned closer to God and taught himself yoga and breathing exercises.

But multiple stints in solitary did not equip Scarberry to leave prison.

He was released in 2014 directly from solitary confinement to the community of Bismarck. Within a year, he started using drugs again and stole a car. 

He came back to prison, got into a fight and was sent back to solitary in November. 

He said the new conditions are "easier to deal with mentally," though he's not convinced that the group therapy helps him much.

"I know what I need to do. It's doing it," he said. 

Scarberry was cleared to go back to general population, but asked to stay in the transition area to avoid risking trouble that might screw up his release. 

Now he gets out of his cell and participates in activities with the other inmates in the transitional unit, instead of sitting alone all day. He's working on his muscles — the goal is 20-inch biceps.

A thesaurus sits on the metal table bolted to his cell wall. He just learned the word "kudos."

He said he wants to start a roofing business when he is paroled. He works as a janitor in the prison, and, when he gets out this summer, he thinks he can save money to buy a truck and tools. 

He thinks he has the skills he needs — as long as no one strikes first.

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at

"I can't relate to people the same. Looking at four walls every day didn't make me crazy, but I feel damaged." 

-- Jacob Scarberry

Jacob Scarberry

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