That's the goal of a $10 million program announced Thursday.
The Labor Department already administers a grant program designed to help ex-inmates find work, but the mentoring and training generally occurs after release.
Federal officials are exploring whether opening job centers inside jails would help more inmates find work by giving them a head start on their resumes, interviewing skills and job leads.
Twenty communities were selected for grants.
More than 9 million people are released from county and local jails each year.
Many have lots of barriers to overcome to finding a job, and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez says more has to be done to break the cycle of incarceration.