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Instead of the shame, guilt, humiliation and fear that Baby Girl normally felt when she sat on the wooden bench for prisoners in Denver County courtroom 12T, she beamed with pride as she waited for the judge to call her name.

Baby Girl no longer walks Colfax. Gone are the days of hustling, sucking, fucking, lying, stealing and slanging crack. Instead of living hit to hit, Baby Girl lives for her son. She lives for herself.

"I'm not your average good guy, but I'm not that bad, you know. I'm happy with myself, happier than I've been in a long time," she told the crowd of about 65 who turned out on November 15 to witness her and four other former crack hos graduate from the Chrysalis Project ("Lost and Found," June 2).

This is the first graduating class of Chrysalis, a program started in February to help women like Baby Girl break the cycle of drugs, sex and jail time. It is funded through a grant from the Department of Justice that requires 75 women to be enrolled in the program each year. In less than a year, 55 have been referred to the program; five have now graduated, five are on the run, nineteen were sent back to jail, and eighteen are still going through treatment.

Kicking a crack habit wasn't easy for Baby Girl, nor was walking away from the money she made selling it -- when she was sober enough to do so. During her time in the program, there were many who didn't think she'd see graduation day; the 27-year-old had never graduated from anything, not even high school. She was sent back to jail once for a urine test that showed cocaine; after that, she was arrested again and charged with distribution, but the charges were dropped when the cops failed to find the quarter-ounce of crack she had hidden in her ass. Then she went back to jail again for missing urine tests after she picked up the pipe, resumed selling crack and was again pimping hos. After that, Denver County Judge John Marcucci was ready to bounce her from the program and send her back to jail for up to a year, but Baby Girl's Chrysalis counselor vouched for her one last time. After that, Baby Girl went straight.

Now her son is proud of her. "I'm happy to have my mom back," he says, standing in front of her. "I hope she does better in life and doesn't go back to jail."

For now, Baby Girl is working as a telemarketer and spending as much time with her son and boyfriend as possible. She plans to drop in on her Chrysalis peers from time to time and likes the idea of giving back, working with some of the same women who walked Colfax alongside her. "These people helped me sober up. I love these people -- it ain't going to be goodbye," she says.

But Baby Girl still dreams of getting rich -- and she knows she can't do it counseling hos. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I know I'm going to stay sober," she says. "I'm living a pretty good life, just to sit in my own home, be sober, come and go as I please."

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Luke Turf