Marc Levin, the director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, believes lawmakers will face significant challenges when it comes to criminal justice in the 2011 legislative session. In both the adult and youth systems, he says, eliminating prisons could be the most cost-effective way to improve safety. And when it comes to saving money, he cautions lawmakers against both making more criminal offenses and enhancing existing ones. "Especially now, with this budget crisis," he told the Tribune earlier this month, "you have to make sure that you get the greatest return for every dollar you spend."

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