Gemma is a program of New Life that provides gender-specific reentry services to support participants in building a safe, stable, and structured transition back into the community after incarceration. For more information please contact New Life at 831-427-1007 ext 201.


Gemma’s purpose is to provide effective services and support to assist participants to successfully reintegrate and positively engage in the community after incarceration and break the revolving door cycle of incarceration and recidivism.


The Gemma Program is comprised of three service areas:

Make a Referral:

Program FAQs

Gemma FAQ

Day Program FAQs

Continuing Care Program FAQs

Transitional Housing Program FAQs

Transitional Housing Program

The Gemma Transitional House is a structured residential program for women, focused on the successful integration of early recovery and reentry practices

  • Women who are participating in the Day Program are eligible to apply
  • 6 residents may participate in the program for up to 18 months, there is no minimum length of stay
  • The Gemma Transitional House uses a phase system. Residents can graduate in any phase, once they have met their personal and programmatic goals
  • The Gemma Transitional House is centrally located in a residential home in the Live Oak area of Santa Cruz County
  • There is no immediate cost to the Gemma Transitional House. Once residents’ gain an income, they contribute 60% of their income to rent. Half of that amount is set aside in an incentive account that upon successful graduation, gets paid directly to the landlord of the graduate’s next safe and stable housing. Residents are provided budgeting and money management classes to support them in the successful management of the remaining 40% of their income.

Building on the foundation provided in the Day Program, the Gemma Transitional House provides residents with a combination of a structured setting, compassionate and skilled 24-hour staff support, and the freedom to choose their life path to recovery.

Within the framework of the program, residents have daily opportunities to practice managing the challenges of reentry by integrating life and coping skills, decision making, and problem solving. Strong emphasis is placed on self-
awareness, personal responsibility, accountability and wise use of power that helps residents target habitual behavior patterns that have led to relapse and recidivism.

The Transitional House programing includes:

  • Daily support from House Managers
  • Daily guidance & mentorship from peers
  • Daily chores
  • Family style dinners 5 nights a week – focused on healthy eating & shopping within a budget
  • Weekly Spending Log completion – budgeting & money management practices
  • Weekly Individual & Group Therapy
  • Weekly Case Coordination – with a focus on meeting personal & programmatic goals
  • Weekly Workshops – intermediate and advanced skills from Day Program
  • Weekly House Meeting – with a focus on expressing needs and living in a communal environment
  • Engagement in volunteer & community activities
  • Completion of Job Preparation and Search or Enrollment/Attendance in Education/Vocation Program
  • Attendance at meetings in support of recovery
  • Management of physical and behavioral health needs
  • Communication with Court, Probation, CPS or Sheriff’s office as requested
  • Daily practice and modeling of behavioral change and growth

Gemma FAQ

General FAQs:

What does the name “Gemma” mean?

Gemma is a botanical term meaning a bud ready to grow independently. It was chosen by local incarcerated women who founded the program who identified with the image of blossoming into a new life path.

When was Gemma started?

Gemma was started in 2003 by women in the Santa Cruz County Blaine Street jail who worked with a group of committed local supporters and community members to help Gemma blossom and grow

Is Gemma a nonprofit?

Yes, Gemma is Program of New Life Community Services, a nonprofit 501(c)3.

Can someone receive services from Gemma if they aren’t in jail?

Yes, all services are available for women who are out of custody and Continuing Care services are available for men who have completed the RISE Phase I program.

How much does it cost to participate in the Gemma Program?

  • It does not cost anything to enroll in any part of the Gemma Program.
  • The Day Programs and the Continuing Care Program are FREE.
  • Residents of the Gemma Transitional House are required to contribute 60% of their income toward their treatment and programming. Half of the 60% goes toward rent and the other half is held in an incentive account until the resident successfully completes the program, at which time the money is used for rent, security deposit and for move-out expenses.

Are formerly incarcerated people involved in the planning and operation of Gemma?

Yes, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals have been and remain involved at every stage of development, operation, evaluation and improvement of Gemma. A key aspect of the Gemma design is modeling and mentoring for future classes of Gemma participants.

Is there a Gemma program for men?

YES! In 2012, R.I.S.E. (Reclaiming Integrity Self-Awareness and Empowerment) an in-custody men’s version of the Gemma Day Program was created.

How do I know if Gemma is right for me?

We encourage all potential participants to contact us, ask questions and do their research to make sure that our program is the right fit for them.

What do I do to get someone I care about enrolled in Gemma?

We’d strongly encourage you to provide our contact information to your loved one and let them do the rest. We’re happy to answer questions and support people in making the decision that’s best for them.

Are there services for family and partners?

Yes! We provide couples and family counseling for participants in our programs. We also strongly encourage family members and partners to connect with the Alanon and CODA support community.

What is Gemma’s approach to substance abuse treatment and recovery?

Gemma uses the most recent research and evidence based models of effective reentry, treatment and recovery from addictive behaviors including codependency. We are a trauma informed program that utilizes Cognitive Behavioral and mindfulness based interventions.

Are women on parole eligible for Gemma?

Yes! As long as you have been incarcerated in the Santa Cruz County Jail, you are eligible for services.

How is Gemma funded?

Gemma is funded through a combination of local funds, public and private foundation grants, individual donors and through fundraising events.

When are Gemma’s fundraising events?

Gemma holds an annual Fundraiser, participates in the Human Race each May, and holds various fundraisers throughout the year. For more information, call us at 831-427-1007 ext 201 or follow us on Facebook.  If you would like to participate or contribute to either event, please contact Gemma.

Is Gemma Successful?

YES! Through an independent recidivism analysis using rigorous standards, the data has consistently shown that Gemma participants have only a 30% recidivism rate compared to the State average of roughly 70%. Aside from unprecedented reductions in recidivism, Gemma is also proud that our participants have improved quality of life and engagement in the community in areas including: sobriety, sustained employment, completion of education goals, payment of debt and restitution, connection with the community in the form of volunteerism, and improvements in physical and behavioral health as well as reunification with family

What does that mean, “Once you’re in Gemma, you’re always in Gemma?”

That is a saying we have here to remind people that you always belong here at Gemma. No matter what happens in your life, our door will always be open.

Day Program FAQs:

Who is eligible for the Gemma Day Program for women?

  • Women who live in Santa Cruz County
  • Women who are 18 years and older who are or have been incarcerated in Santa Cruz County
  • Women who can benefit from and actively participate in the group treatment process

Priority is given to women who:

  • are incarcerated at Blaine St.
  • have experienced the revolving door of incarceration
  • who are homeless and/or at risk of becoming homeless or women who are or will be unsafely housed upon release

Who is eligible for the Gemma’s Men’s RISE Day Program?

  • Men who are incarcerated at the Rountree facility
  • Men who will be in custody for the full ten week Phase I session
  • Men who can benefit from and actively participate in the group treatment process

Who are the instructors for the Gemma Day Program?

The Gemma Day Program instructors are predominately skilled community volunteers who teach in their area of professional expertise.

Continuing Care Program FAQs:

Who is eligible for the Gemma Continuing Care Program?

Women and men who are 18 years and older who are or have been incarcerated in Santa Cruz County.

What is open to women or men seeking reentry support after completion of Gemma’s Day Program services

  • Structured individual case-management – scheduled throughout the week that focuses on job preparation and search, money management and budgeting, daily practice and integration of behavioral change, use of safe coping and early recovery skills, and connection with reentry resources
  • Individual therapy – scheduled throughout the week
  • Group therapy – in the evenings
  • There is no cost to participate in the Continuing Care Program

*Continuing Care services are also available to out-of-custody women in preparation for enrollment in Gemma’s Day Program

Transitional Housing Program FAQs:

Who is eligible for the Gemma Transitional House?

  • Women who live in Santa Cruz County
  • Women who are 18 years and older who are or have been incarcerated in Santa Cruz County enrolled in or have recently completed the Gemma Day Program
  • The ideal candidate for the Gemma House is a woman who is in need of a long-term, structured, supportive housing program to assist them on their path to recovery.

What is the length of the Gemma Transitional Housing Program?

  • The maximum stay at the Gemma House is 18 months with no minimum stay. Successful graduation of the program is based on completion of personal and programmatic goals and can happen in any of the five phases of the program.
  • Graduates of the Gemma Transitional Treatment House typically live there between 9 – 12 months.
  • Can women with children live in the Gemma Transitional Treatment House?
  • During the development of Gemma, participants clearly communicated their need to have a safe space in which they could begin to heal and create stability prior to reuniting with children and families.
  • Based on this feedback, Gemma was not designed for children.
  • Gemma fully supports family reunification including visits at the house, and also provides family therapy to any Gemma participants who are interested.

Are pets allowed at the Gemma Transitional House?

Unfortunately, we cannot allow pets that might trigger allergic reactions but many of Gemma’s residents have volunteered their time at the Santa Cruz County Animal Services Center.

Is smoking allowed at the Gemma Transitional House?

Smoking cessation resources will be provided and cessation encouraged, however there is a designated outdoor area at the house in which residents may smoke within designated smoking hours.

Are residents required to get a job or attend school?

The purpose of Gemma is to support participants in becoming engaged and contributing members in the community which includes obtaining education and skills to secure income to support oneself. All residents, with staff support, will create a plan that includes securing a consistent income that can support her stable and safe transition back into the community.

Is Gemma a crisis house?

No, there is an application, interview and assessment process involved in getting into the Gemma House. It is a transitional housing program that targets the habitual behavior patterns that perpetuate the revolving door cycle of incarceration.

"What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" - Mark 8:36

"The program gave me the opportunity to find recovery - With support from the staff and the classes at New Life, God changed the course of my life"

"The length of the program was designed to give me the long-term support I needed - I loved my counselor"

"The outpatient services were great, allowing me to work in the community and get the treatment I needed"