The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday announced it had opened a civil rights investigation of the Georgia state prison system.

A focus of the probe will be the targeting of LGBT inmates by prisoners and staff for sexual violence. The agency will also look into prisoner-on-prisoner attacks.

According to USA Today, at least 44 inmates have died by homicide since last year.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, announced the inquiry. She said that the federal investigation was prompted in part by allegations reported by the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The Southern Center earlier this month filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Georgia detention system.

“Conditions of [solitary] confinement … are repulsive,” the group said. “Rats and roaches crawl on people while they sleep and crawl in their food. Many cells have no power and defective plumbing. Living areas reek of feces from accumulated human waste in unflushed toilets, whose flushing mechanisms are controlled by staff.”

“The conditions are so harsh and isolating – and mental health care is so inadequate – that self-injury and violence are common,” the group added.

Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, applauded the DOJ's announcement.

“I thank Attorney General [Merrick] Garland and Assistant Attorney General Clarke for listening as I've raised this issue and for taking action,” Ossoff said in a statement.