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Charles Lea, PhD

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Assistant Professor, Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

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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 B.A. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Lea’s research investigates how environmental and individual risk and protective factors shape the life trajectories and outcomes of young Black men and boys who are at risk and involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Guided by sociological, psychological and critical theories, his research (1) investigates the role and influence race and culture has on positive youth development and (2) describes and explains young Black men’s resilience and resiliency processes during their reentry from correctional to urban settings. At the intersections of social work, education, and criminal justice, his scholarship is aimed to 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 for an oral history research project 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 he wrote a policy brief on juvenile correction education programs for the California Wellness Foundation.

He has been an adjunct lecturer, teaching assistant and guest lecturer at several universities in California, teaching classes on human behavior and the social environment; race and social policy; social work in criminal justice settings; and diversity and social justice.