Over the past 30 years federal and state policies have increasingly pursued a harsh, "tough on crime" position. With the "war on drugs" and allied changes in sentencing practices and policing policies, the US has witnessed a sharp increase in the proportion of citizens incarcerated or under some form of supervision by the state. This transformation has fallen with special severity on African Americans, especially low-income black males. To many analysts, the deepening racialization of the chances of criminal incarceration was at least a foreseeable, if not predictable and intended, consequence of these policy changes. The purpose of this essay, based on new focus group research and newly designed national sample survey data, is to assess the perceptions and consequences of these changes for African Americans' judgments about the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.