A Brazilian inmate, whose attempt to break out of jail disguised as his daughter reverberated around the world, has been found dead.

Rio de Janeiro state authorities believe that Clauvino da Silva took his own life after he was found dead in a high-security unit in the state's Bangu prison complex.

The convicted drug dealer was serving a decades-long sentence when he was caught trying to break out of jail last Saturday, disguised as his daughter.

He was caught wearing a plastic mask, a long black wig and women's clothes.

A video released by prison authorities in which he slowly removes his surreal disguise went viral, shining a light on Brazil's long-standing struggle with its violent, overcrowded prison system, the world's third largest.

He is the latest prisoner to die in Brazil's jails, which have become a major headache for new tough-on-crime President Jair Bolsonaro.

Last week, at least 57 people died after a prison riot broke out in the northern state of Para.

More than 50 inmates died in similar circumstances in May during prison riots in the northern state of Amazonas.

Brazil's incarcerated population has surged eight-fold in three decades to around 750,000 inmates.

Prison gangs, originally formed to protect inmates and advocate for better conditions, have come to wield vast power that reaches far beyond prison walls.

The gangs are linked to bank robberies, drug trafficking and gun-running, with jailed leaders running their empires through smuggled mobile phones.