WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders in federal prisons, part of his administration’s effort to reform the criminal justice system.

In a video posted Monday afternoon, the president said the people whose sentences he was commuting had served sentences disproportionate to their crimes.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” he said, noting that in his letters to them he made sure they needed to make different choices now that they were free. But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

Obama’s clemency to non-violent drug offenders comes as the administration is working to reduce operating costs and overcrowding in federal prisons.

, as well as to provide relief to inmates who were sent to prison under the harsh sentencing guidelines put in place in the late 1980s as the country was grappling with the crime and violence associated with crack cocaine.

“We’re at a moment where some good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and folks across the country are coming together around ideas to make the system work smarter, make it work better, Obama said in the video. “And I’m determined to do my part wherever I can. That’s one of the reasons why I’m commuting the sentences of 46 prisoners who were convicted many years, or in some cases, decades ago.”

Since the Obama administration announced last year that it would grant clemency to nonviolent drug offenders, more than 35,000 inmates or about 16 percent of the federal prison population have applied for early release.

In December, Obama granted clemency to eight federal drug offenders, four of whom had been sentenced to life in prison. In March, the president commuted the sentences of 22 drug offenders. At that time, White House counsel Neil Eggleston said that under current sentencing guidelines, many of the individuals granted clemency would have already served their time in prison.