While public attention often focuses on prisons, the majority of offenders supervised by the Michigan Department of Corrections are not incarcerated. Some more cost effective ideas other than prison for lower-risk offenders include, community supervision and interventions. This is especially true for those who have committed property or other non-violent crimes, those whose risk is low or has been reduced through treatment and programming, and those who have completed the department's boot camp program.
Following policies and procedures of the department, probationers and parolees are managed by trained parole and probation officers who have post-secondary degrees, usually in criminal justice or related fields. Some agents supervise parolees (those who have been released from prison after serving their sentence); some supervise probationers (offenders whose sentences are served in the community); and some agents supervise all types of offenders.
There are agents, too, who supervise probationers who have completed Phase 1 of the department's Special Alternative Incarceration (SAI) or boot camp program and who are returned to the community (in Phases 2 and 3) for the balance of their sentences.
There are many ways in which agents monitor offenders behaviors. Some techniques include visiting an offender's home, contacting employers, requiring documentation of attendance at school or in required programs, substance abuse testing and contact with law enforcement agencies to check on arrests.
All offenders in community settings must comply with rules, or "orders", based on both standard and special conditions set by a court, in the case of probationers, and by the Michigan Parole Board, in the case of parolees.
In some jurisdictions, agents specialize in managing certain types of offenders, such as sex offenders, females, or offenders with mental illness or histories of substance abuse. Specialization allows an agent to become more efficient in dealing with specific types of offenders.