For these families, the island offered a completely different experience than the dangerous and deadly one that the prisoners faced. The island is incredibly beautiful, with views that are breathtaking.
On June 11, 1962, the three men finally acted on their plan. The placed their dummy heads under their blankets, and then crawled through the holes they had made in their cells, scaled the pipes in the utility corridor behind their cells, made it to the roof of Alcatraz, and then slid down a stove pipe outside and crept to the shoreline. Once they reached the water, the men inflated a raft they had made out of a raincoat, and drifted out into the bay. There's been no sign of them ever since.
The mastermind of this plot, Bernard Coy, a bank robber, had noticed that certain bars in Alcatraz were deformed in such a way that they could be bent. He created a device that could be used to spread the bars wider so that he could slip through and get into an area restricted for corrections officers only. He starved himself for some time so that he would have been able to squeeze through the small space between the widened bars. Coy's plan worked seamlessly (thus far), and he essentially gained control of much of the inside of the prison by capturing corrections officers and placing them all in a cell.
Coy needed to secure a certain key to get out into the yard, as their escape plan involved taking the daily boat from Alcatraz to San Francisco. However, in the process of trying several keys, the prisoners jammed the door lock and effectively locked themselves into the very room they were trying to escape from.
Things soon became deadly. When corrections officers tried to retake the prison, they were shot at by the prisoners, who had taken guns from the corrections officers they were holding captive. The captivity lasted two days, and in the end, three prisoners died and two corrections officers were killed. Marines were called in to gain control of the prison, and they did so by dropping grenades into the prison--the damage is still apparent today.
After the occupation, the federal government began bulldozing buildings on the island, but this stopped when Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972, and Alcatraz Island was taken under the management of the National Park Service.
So, if you are ever in San Francisco, you should definitely go to Alcatraz. It's a fascinating place, the audio tour that is free is very good, and the garden walks (if they are open) are really beautiful.