This could go on all the way up until his maximum release date. In some cases, what happens, they're never able to submit an appropriate release plan. —Washington Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis
Steven Powell will remain in prison for at least another month and possibly longer.
Powell, 62, would have been eligible for early release from the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Wash., next Thursday. But under Washington state law, an inmate must first submit an "offender release plan."
"It's a plan of, where do you plan to live? How are you going to support yourself? What treatment is available? So the offender submits the plan. We investigate it. We go ensure that the residence is OK, that there's treatment available, you have a support network. We review it and we either approve it or deny it," said Washington Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis. "Once he submits a plan and if we approve it, then the clock starts."
Once that plan is approved, Lewis said an inmate will stay an additional 35 days in prison while preparations are made for his release, such as notifying victims as well as local law enforcement in the area that he is about to move there.
As of Wednesday, Powell had submitted his offender release plan to Corrections officials, but it was still in the process of being reviewed. Even if it was approved this week, it would still be another month at the earliest that he would be released, Lewis said.
Powell's plan could also be rejected. Common reasons for denying a plan include living too close to victims, or in the case of an alcoholic, for example, moving in too close to a bar, Lewis said. If the plan is rejected, Powell would have opportunity to submit a new plan.
"This could go on all the way up until his maximum release date. In some cases, what happens, they're never able to submit an appropriate release plan," Lewis said.
Powell's "maximum release date," or the day that he will be released from prison even if he doesn't have an acceptable release plan, is in April of 2014.
Powell was convicted by a Tacoma jury on 14 counts of voyeurism in 2012. During the sentencing hearing, two of those cases were dismissed and Powell, accused of taking pictures of two young neighbor girls while they were using their bathroom, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on June 19.
An inmate can get time knocked off their sentence - up to a third - for not having any violent infractions while incarcerated and by participating in various treatment programs. Lewis said Powell was successful in both, making his "earned release date" May 23.
Once Powell is released, many have wondered if he'll move back into his house in Puyallup, Wash. where he commited his acts of voyeurism from his own bedroom using a long camera lens.
"That's one of the things that we consider when we review the (release) plan," Lewis said.
The two girls, then ages 8 and 10, he was convicted of photographing moved away from the neighborhood before Powell was arrested and before his pictures were discovered during a search by West Valley police in August of 2011.
A civil suit on behalf of the girls was filed against Powell, which isn't scheduled to go to trial until 2014. Both prosecutors and Powell's defense have also filed appeals in the criminal case, which could take months or years to complete.
Powell's daughter, Alina, and son, John, have remained living in the house since their father was sent to prison. Terri Powell, Steven's ex-wife, has also been living in the house in recent months to help take care of her adult children, according to family members.
After Powell is released, he will not be allowed to have any contact with his victims and will be banned from possessing any camera or video recording equipment, sexually explicit materials, joining any social media Internet sites such as Facebook, and unsupervised Internet access including on mobile devices, according to court records.
He will be required to get approved employment and living arrangements, enter a "state approved sexual deviancy treatment program," submit to polygraph and plethysmograph tests, register as a sex offender for 10 years in the county he is living in, and submit a DNA sample.
In Washington state, there is no probation or parole.
"In Washington, you serve your time, and once you're done you're done. The only way you come back if it's a whole new felony conviction," Lewis said.
Powell, however, must check-in with a Community Corrections Officer within 72 hours of his release. The corrections officer will then make sure Powell abides by the terms of his release that were set on June 15, 2012 when he was sentenced.
The difference between a community corrections and parole officer is that a parole officer can send a person back to prison. But a community corrections officer can only put a person in jail for 3 to 30 days depending on the seriousness of the offense. If the offense is serious enough, the officer could seek to have new criminal charges filed.
Powell is the father of Josh Powell, who killed his two young sons and himself while Steven Powell was in prison. Josh Powell has long been considered a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell. Members of Susan Powells family have also openly speculated whether Steven Powell has any knowledge of what happened to Susan.
Susan Powell has been missing since December of 2009. Her body has never been found.