a ball onto a fixed surface from some given height. It rebounds part
way back up. Never quite all the way, of course. How high is
determined by a joint property of the surface and the materials out of
which the ball is made. Physicists call that property the "coefficient
of restitution." Numerically, it ranges between zero, for putty-like
stuff, and almost one, for a ball made from the super-substances your kids
bring home from the shopping mall.
The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that
has been taken away, lost, or surrendered.
The act of making good or compensating for loss, damage,
or injury; indemnification; reparation.
A return to or restoration of a previous state or position.
A coefficient of restitution equal to one is
physically impossible. Such a ball would bounce forever.
Something similar may be said for other forms of restitution.
Call it hysteresis: The pathway backward is never exactly the same as the
pathway forward. You find hysteresis in all realms of nature and
human affairs. It's reality time: restitution does not occur.
Nothing can ever be fully restored to some "previous state."
Consider any case you choose: a loss or an injury -- followed
by what would be commonly called "restitution." Wouldn't you always
prefer not to have suffered the loss or the injury than to have
the restitution? If so, restitution is not capable of restoring you
to a "previous state."
When a crime is involved, the concept of restitution is
outright misleading. Not being robbed/raped is certainly preferable
to having the robber/rapist locked up. Incarceration, whatever its
merits -- in punishment, deterrence, even revenge -- cannot "make good"
or fully compensate a victim.
Strictly speaking, convicts repay debts neither
to their victims nor to society.
Give them a "clean slate" if you want to, but I'll not call