This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

President Obama on Monday granted clemency to 46 prisoners, all sentenced for nonviolent drug offenses, because "their punishments didn't fit the crime," he said.

"These men and women were not hardened criminals," he said in a video released by the White House Monday. "But the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years.

"If they'd been sentenced under today's laws," he added, "nearly all of them would have already served their time."

He sent a personal letter to each of the prisoners, telling them that he believes in their ability "to prove the doubters wrong and change your life for the better."

The move kicks off a week of intense focus on criminal-justice reform. On Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to speak on the topic at the NAACP's annual convention in Philadelphia. And Thursday, he will visit the El Reno federal prison outside Oklahoma City, where he'll meet with law enforcement officials and inmates.

"At its heart, America is a nation of second chances," he said. "And I believe these folks deserve their second chance."

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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