NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WHAS11) — Lisa Livingston hugged her daughter close, making up for lost time with a kiss on the cheek and a whispered, "I'm proud of you." After months of dreaming of this moment, she was finally home.
Sentenced to 30 years in prison in March 2018 for drug charges she pleaded guilty to in 2013, the now-sober Livingston was released from prison Wednesday night, ten months after her sentencing.
“I honestly did not think this day was going to come,” her daughter, Lacey Livingston, said.
While Livingston and her attorneys never said she was innocent of her 2013 crimes, Livingston has been open about how those crimes both encouraged her to get sober and support others struggling with addiction through the creation of The Breakaway, a halfway house for women in New Albany.
Still, Orange County Judge Steve Owens did not believe Lisa's new, clean and sober life was enough to justify her criminal history and keep her out of prison, sentencing her to 30 years in prison.
Livingston's attorneys, Jennifer Culotta and Stacy Uliana, never stopped fighting for an appeal, showing the progress Livingston had made since her charges.
In December 2018, Livingston finally received good news: the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in her favor, saying that Judge Owen's ruling was “inappropriate in light of Livingstons’ offenses and character.” She was finally free.
Culotta said it’s not their doing, but Livingston’s remarkable recovery, that saved her. Not only is she now clean, but she was helping other women get clean before her sentencing.
As soon as Livingston was released, she set her sights on The Breakaway.
“When I walked in, it was just like, 'Thank you Jesus,' because I'm home," Livingston said. "This is our home."
While she was unable to work with women in recovery at The Breakaway during her 10 months in prison, Livingston did not let her sentencing stop her from helping inmates find sobriety.
“When you're incarcerated like that you're trying to hold onto anything, so they would come to me and I would help them through situations and guide them in the right direction,” Livingston said.
A former inmate with Livingston was so inspired, she’s now in recovery at the Breakaway.
“She just has nothing but good things to say about my mother, and how she's helping women in there also,” her daughter explained.
And back at The Breakaway, women refused to let Livingston's vision go dark.
"She's the reason a lot of us have the sobriety that we have," Brittany Leach, executive director of The Breakaway, said. "We have a full house, and a waiting list, and we're just growing and we need her here and she's been missed."
Livingston will still have to serve 23 years under the community corrections program, but the sentence allows her to both serve now serve out her sentence and help women in recovery at The Breakaway.
WHAS11 did reach out to the judge who ordered the original 30 year sentence and have not heard back at this time.
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