Charles Lea received his PhD in 2017 from the University of California, Los Angeles. He earned his MSW from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a BA in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Lea’s research examines the reentry processes of black youth and men from correctional facilities to urban settings. Guided by sociological, psychological and critical theories, his research focuses on three areas: the influence of structural conditions, such as racial discrimination; on pathways toward the termination of offending; the role of systems of care, such as criminal justice, education or mental health, in facilitating or hindering community reintegration; and the risk and protective behaviors of formerly incarcerated boys and men of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods. His scholarship is developing knowledge and building theory that informs policy, practice and interventions to address the deleterious effects of mass incarceration.
Lea’s research is informed by his practice experience with racial/ethnic minority adolescents and adults in community, educational and correctional settings; prior research on prisoner reentry, school reform, and workforce and youth development; and training in qualitative methodology, community-based participatory research and theory-development.
He served as co-investigator on a project that examined the underlying discourses involved in jail and reentry programs geared to assist system-involved men of color in becoming “employable.” He was also project manager at UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research where he conducted and edited oral history interviews on Southern California’s criminal justice system. In addition, he served as an investigator on a mixed-method study focused on the reentry experiences of drug-offending HIV-positive men who have sex with men, and won the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Award in 2016 for his examination of post-incarceration schooling among young adult black men.
Lea has presented his research at conferences around the country. His research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, including The Prison Journal and Children and Youth Services Review. He co-authored a book chapter on a community-based re-entry program in South Los Angeles, and wrote a policy brief on juvenile correction education programs for the California Wellness Foundation.