BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) _ A Maine nonprofit organization has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant to strengthen programs for Maine inmates to prepare them to return work after they are released.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King say the U.S. Department of Labor grant will go to Coastal Counties Workforce Inc. to create an American Job Center at the Cumberland County Jail to provide pre-release employment and career services to inmates.

The senators said Friday that to have a chance at success, former inmates need the right tools to return to communities as productive members of society.

The program is part of a larger initiative through the Labor Department to create a support system for transitioning offenders and direct them toward constructive careers.